Football: Same foe new fight, warns U17 coach

By Sports reporter

The WaiBOP Football ASB Women's League team will return to the artificial turf at St Peter's College in Auckland with a warning about not being complacent ringing in their ears from head coach Peter Smith.

Sunday's game is the first of the Northern Conference return matches with WaiBOP being hosted by the Northern-based New Zealand Football U17, a team they defeated 6-2 at Cambridge only two weeks ago.

"Psychologically we've got the upper hand but on the flip side of that complacency could be our biggest enemy," said Smith.

"[U17's coach Aaron McFarland] is a bit of a tactician who would have identified our strengths and weaknesses and worked on those areas."

"The U17's have players with a high technical range who will punish us if we're not on our game. The result a couple of weeks ago is gone and we need to make sure we're up for this match on Sunday."

Despite the 5-2 win over Auckland Football at St Peter's College last weekend, Smith was disappointed with the performance of his young, developing side. However, a good training session on Tuesday night had the players buzzing again and looking forward to the coming match.

"We had a good discussion which was frank and positive and we identified where we let ourselves down.

"I was happy with how the players took ownership and how the discussion we had went along with the session we had planned, which shows we're on the same page."

The win over Auckland resulted in WaiBOP leap-frogging their northern neighbours into second place on the ASB Women's League Northern Conference points table. With the top two teams from the Northern and Southern Conference progressing through to the semifinals, it will be a place WaiBOP will be keen to hold on to.

However, Smith says he is keeping the players firmly focused on the immediate challenge in front of them.

"I've said to the players let's not worry about the other teams, games or results, let's just play to our potential. If you do that then you win games, if you win games then you win leagues.

"You don't want to look to far forward because if you start doing that then you start to compromise your principles, and compromise is the first cousin of failure."

Smith has made one change to his match day squad from last weekend, with a medial ligament injury likely to curtail defender Kylie Jens' involvement in WaiBOP's campaign. Jens is replaced by 15-year-old Chantelle Leban.

"Kylie will be sorely missed but it has given someone else an opportunity to get into the starting line-up," said Smith, who noted that artificial turf tends to increase the risk of this type of injury.

Jens is currently getting physiotherapy on the injury with a decision on if she'll need surgery likely to be made towards the end of the week.

Leban is a youthful addition to WaiBOP's match day squad, with the Claudelands Rovers' player another who has come through the Federation Talent Centre development pathway.

"Chantelle is ... attack-minded, strong in the tackle and has a good passing range. As well as playing up front she can also play a holding midfield role and is quite versatile."

Sunday's game is the last away match for WaiBOP with their two other remaining fixtures played at Rotorua International Stadium (November 25) against Northern Football and Mount Maunganui's Links Ave (December 5) against Auckland Football.

Round four between, Northern-based NZF U-17 v WaiBOP Football gets under way at 3pm at St Peter's College, Grafton, Auckland.

WaiBOP Football squad: Naomi-Beth Carter, Kate Carlton, Eileish Hayes, Trudi Greig, Libby Williams, Emma Baker, Rachel Porteous, Keri O'Connell, Katherine Robinson, Helen Collins, Issy Coombes, Ella Golding, Chantelle Leban, Megan Anderson, Jess Clark, Laura Phillips.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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