Napier U17s team at the 2017 AFC Auckland Youth Tournament in Western Springs. Coach Dave Mackirdy (back row, far left) and team manager Ben Kent (back row, far right).
Napier City Rovers U17s travelled to Auckland last weekend to take part in the prestigious Auckland City Youth Tournament and showed they could compete with some of the top clubs in New Zealand.
The Blues proved they were ‘no walk-overs’ in the invite only tournament that showcases some of the country’s top talent, claiming notable victories with promising displays of football.
Rovers went all the way to the semi-finals of the Bowl Competition before narrowly losing out to Tauranga City.
The Dave Mackirdy led team got off to a strong start, claiming their first victory against Lynn Avon in their inaugural game of the contest hosted at Western Springs.
Zack Madsen scored the only goal in a match where the Blues created lots of chances, and were unlucky not to have a gained a higher tally.
But, after the winning start some tough matches followed, and they went on to back-to-back defeats by FC 2011 (4-0), and competition winners for the third year running, Birkenhead United (2-0).
The Blues bounced back to winning form on day two, beating Bay Olympic 2-0 in the first game of the day.
Cam Burnell opened the scoring to ensure Rovers were 1-0 up at half-time.
In the second-half the youngster doubled the lead when he outpaced the Olympic defence to fire a shot from the flank into the bottom corner of the net.
After the high, came another disappointing low, with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Forrest Hill in a game that saw the Blues frustrated by missed chances, hitting the bar twice in the closing stages.
The results saw Rovers through to the Bowl Competition where they faced Ellerslie in the quarter finals.
Goals by Kenny Willox and Cam Burnell gave the Blues a 2-0 lead in the first-half.
Burnell scored again in the opening minutes of the second-half to make it 3-0.
Ellerslie managed to get back in the game by hitting the net twice, but Rovers showed their quality and Leyton Ross sealed the victory when he sent home number 4, finishing the match 4-2.
The tournament journey ended for the U17 side after a frustrating loss to Tauranga City in the semi-final.
Rovers created the better chances in the hard fought game, but were dealt a blow when Tauranga crossed a ball into the box and it was fumbled over the line.
The competition may have been over for Rovers, but a great display of talent representing the club was shown in the respected Auckland competition.
Coach Dave Mackirdy says despite low numbers stretching the young team to capacity, they can be proud of their performances.
“It was a tough tournament. It was a shame we didn’t have more players. We were the lightest team here with 14 players,” says Mackirdy.
“Our guys did really well. The first day killed us, we had so many hard games on that first day.
“But, we definitely competed up here. We were no walk overs in any games.
“They done well, especially with the numbers we had.”
Team manager Ben Kent says the appetite and drive of the young team was strong.
“The boys created an on pitch intensity which reflected their passion for achieving the best possible results.
“No team was too good for us and if certain things had gone our way I could imagine us competing in the top eight."
Kent says despite the good performances, there is still work to be done.
“Noticing the gulf between ourselves and what is the next step up is vast and daunting.
“Yet with time, effort, and some passion, I can see us achieving a competitive youth base across all grades within five years.
“We can be the flagship of the Bay and attract players who want to compete at the highest level.”
Email NCR Media