U-19s performed well at Napier

Melville technical director Sam Wilkinson is proud of the club’s efforts at the Napier U-19 tournament.

Melville U-19 men made the main draw semifinals for the second time in three years – ultimately bowing out to eventual tournament winner Birkenhead United 1-0 through an own goal from a corner in a match where their goalkeeper was suspended after a debatable red card in the quarterfinals.

And Melville U-19 women recorded two wins in their first outing at this level, with a squad which was based around academy U15s and U-16s, and was the youngest in the tournament.

“There was a lot to be pleased about,” Wilkinson said.

“I’ve been here with very good teams in the past where we haven’t got out of our group. We were unlucky not to go further and without being disrespectful, I felt we would have beaten either of the other two semifinalists from what I saw.”

To make the semis Melville finished second in their group behind the Phoenix-based Lower Hutt, then pipped Waitakere City 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

In group play they beat Manurewa 4-0, Forrest Hill Milford 7-0, and Tawa 2-1. they drerw 0-0 with Wellington Olympic and lost 0-2 to Lower Hutt.

“We won our quarterfinal with an outfielder in goal for all but eight minutes of the match, coming from behind to do so.”

Keeper Joe Knowles advanced to collect a ball over the top under pressure and though he collected within his box, his momentum took him outside the penalty area – for which he was sent off. Melville appealed the red card after taking advice from other quarters, but tournament officials upheld the dismissal and suspension and Legga Legz played the whole semifinal against Birkenhead in goal.

Wilkinson was in little doubt that Knowles would have prevented the semifinal winner had he been eligible to play.

“The sending off turned the tournament for us.”

However Wilkinson was delighted with the efforts of his squad – of whom 12 are still eligible for the U-17 tournament in Auckland from December 18-20.

“We had a very competent squad. As a group they all did well, and that was the key strength that allowed us to progress.”

Stand-out players for Melville were Ryen Lawrence, Campbell Brown, Josh Galletly and Knowles. Lawrence, playing up front or as an attacking midfielder, was golden boot with five goals, including two penalties in the quarterfinal – the first he earned himself and the second he coolly tucked away under significant pressure.

“But all players had their moments where they stood up.”

Melville were pleased to get out of their pool at Napier

Wilkinson was also pleased with the efforts of the Melville U-19 women, coached by Tarena Ranui and Laichyn Parkinson.

“We had very positive feedback about a team making its first tournament visit, with a squad where all but three were U16.”

Only disappointment for Wilkinson was the dearth of national coaches on hand to witness proceedings.

“With Tauranga making the final it showed there is some talent and ability in our region, so it is puzzling that we get so little recognition in national ID camps.

“With no other football on at Labour Weekend it was crying out for New Zealand’s full-time development staff to be present.”

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