IT'S BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Team Wellington Youth 1 Auckland City Youth 2
Sunday 16th October 2016
Petone Memorial
ATT about 150
Auckland City Keeper Cameron Brown saves at the feet of Team Wellington's Ihaia Delany TheJourneyFan
It’s back, Football’s back! Although it never really went away but the last couple of months have been a mix of A-League & National League pre-season games and even a couple of New Zealand internationals (where they surprised everyone with two credible performances a 1-2 loss to Mexico and a 1-1 draw with the USA).

This weekend saw the kick off of the 3 National League’s – The Stirling Sports Premiership for the men, the National Women’s League & the National Youth League, which was the reason I found myself at Petone Memorial on a gloriously sunny Wellington day.

The National Youth league has been going since 2002. This season sees a couple of changes as all teams are now youth teams of the Stirling Sports Premiership teams. It means that Nelson Marlborough Falcons and WaiBOP United are replaced by Tasman United & Hamilton Wanderers respectively. Eastern Suburbs join the league, while Heartland Wairarapa, Manawatu United & Auckland United are all dropped.

Team Wellington are the current holders of the National Youth League title, while Auckland City were runners up, but as this is a development league with an age restriction the previous seasons form isn’t really a barometer you can use in assessing the teams for this season. 

Team Wellington have only retained 2 players from their championship winning squad while Auckland City have retained slightly more with 5, however in 30 man squads this still means a large turnover of players. There have also been coaching changes for both teams. Team Wellington have entered a partnership with the Ole Football Academy this season and have new coaches in Miramar’s Rupert Crump & Ole Academy’s Ben Sippola with Western Suburbs coach & Ole Director of Coaching, Declan Edge working as Technical Director.
Auckland City lost their coach, Jose Figueira, to Team Wellington’s Premiership side and are coached this season by Andy Peat who is assisted by John Cunningham.

Auckland City's Ignacio Machuca The JourneyFan
Team Wellington had the first chance in the 8th minute when an Aaron McDonald shot went just wide of the post. Auckland City should have been 1 up in the 15th minute when a cross from Rahimi found Maro Bonsu-Maro on the penalty spot but he was unable to direct his volley into the goal. Team Wellington had a couple of other chances but it was Auckland City who were dominating the game with some nice football, especially from Ignacio Machua in the midfield. Auckland City had a few chances but (and I see this with a lot of youth teams) they tended to make the wrong decision when they got near the goal and instead of having a crack would look for the option to pass instead. They could probably have been up by a couple at half time if they had shot more.

Andy Peat may have had the same thoughts as me as in the second half Auckland City seemed to have a lot more shots on goal. Team Wellington’s keeper, Shea Stapleton, who had looked a bit suspect in the first half started to come into his own and made a couple of good saves, but when Auckland City’s Jack Anderson curled the ball into the far corner in the 73rd minute there was nothing he could do and it was 1-0 Auckland City.

10 minutes later it was all square when Team Wellington’s Ahmad Mohammadi, who had only come on as a sub 3 minutes earlier, put the ball in the back of the net.
Team Wellington's wall jumps to defend a Free kick The JourneyFan
The game started to get frantic now as Team Wellington pushed for a winner but it was Auckland City who on a counter attack found sub Antonio Bonkovich unmarked on the far post and he lobbed it into the goal.

Things weren’t over yet, somehow there were 7 minutes of extra time (I assume from the number of subs) and Team Wellington were continuing to push and they did get the ball in the back of the net in the 6th minute but it was flagged as offside (which it was)

Overall Auckland City deserved their 2-1 win but Team Wellington gave them a good game and these 2 teams should be in or around the top of the table come the end of the season.