Tauranga City’s ISPS Handa Chatham Cup matchday this Sunday comes at a good time for a club looking for a lift.
Progressing through to the third round of the venerable knockout competition with a 4-1 away win over Auckland club Metro earlier this month has been the bright light for the club this season, with their Northern League Division One campaign not as yet going exactly to plan.
Sunday’s encounter with Auckland Premier Division outfit Western Springs will be an ideal opportunity for the Links Ave based team to put a few frustrations behind them and show what they’re capable of.
“We’ve had such a difficult season in terms of the bounce of the ball not going our way,” says club chair Brendon McHugh. “There’s been a few games we’ve absolutely dominated play, and then you don’t get the win, just don’t get that little bit of luck.”
But he backs his head coach Nic Millichip to produce results.
“I think Nic is on the right path. He’s got a lot of new players in the squad this year and he’s got a lot of young guys as well.
“We’ve dominated a lot of the games in terms of possession, and playing football. If we keep progressing the results will come.”
Last Saturday’s 2-1 league defeat to bottom-placed Oratia United, handing the visitors their first win of the season, typified City’s season of occasional ups and a few too many downs.
Sam O’Regan gave them a deserved advantage with a well-struck early penalty awarded after a cumbersome challenge on promising teenage talent Riley Bidois. The Tauranga Boys College student broke into the left side of the Oratia penalty box only to find a defender hauling him to the ground in a crude rugby tackle.
The home side dictated terms for the remainder of the first half forging a number of chances, notably a powerful Andy Carter effort from wide on the right of the box which the visiting goalkeeper could only parry into the path of O’Regan. After doing the hard work to get into an attacking position however, the big defensive midfielder found himself flagged for offside after putting the ball in the net.
Then came a second half to forget, with two defensive lapses turning the scoreline around.
An under-hit back pass to Tom Pamment left the veteran goalkeeper no choice but to confront an approaching attacker, giving away a penalty and earning a yellow card in the process.
The turnaround was then completed by a free header from an Oratia corner which crept inside the post out of the reach of the diving Pamment’s left hand.
Injuries to the experienced trio of Andy Carter, Will Clague and Sam O’Regan didn’t help, but Nic concedes it was a disappointing result.
“You just need to get that couple of wins under your belt.
“Sometimes when things aren’t going well people just don’t feel right so you’re just trying to create that feeling. To get in the winning mode. There’s habits of losing and habits of winning - you’ve got to create those habits.”
Getting the better of the Premier Division unit from north of the Bombays will be a good place to start.
“A win here would be huge,” says Nic. “Western Springs are going to be a decent side so we’ve got our work cut out. In saying that I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t come away with it.”
“We had a couple of good tussles with them last year and didn’t manage to get over them so we’re certainly hoping this year we can. I know they’ve been in mid-table form with a few up and down results.”
He’s backing talented youngsters Riley Bidois and Jay Silcock to play a big part in the game.
“We’ve been working really hard with them all year and they’ve had a fantastic attitude.
“Every game at that level you can see them just growing. So that bodes well for the future and hopefully as we keep going it starts to consolidate in some of the things we’ve worked on.”
Brendon says the clash will be a big occasion for the club newly formed from the merger of Tauranga City United with its junior Mount Maunganui counterpart.
“Part of it for us is getting the junior members involved more.”
He says he noticed the kids enjoy wearing the same shirts as the senior teams and want to hang around more and watch the big guys.
“It takes a bit of time to get that one club mentality but I think in six months it’s quite cool what we’ve done.”
“It should be really positive for Tauranga City,” Nic adds, “in getting people involved and around the ground and liking to be around football.”
His squad will be without regular captain Ray How, who is suspended for the match after picking up a red card for two needless yellows late in Saturday’s game, otherwise should be at full strength. They’ve trained well through the week, and are, Nic says, sharing in the upbeat mood.
“We’ll be fired up and ready to go.”
Sunday’s round three ISPS Handa Chatham Cup tie at Links Ave kicks off at 2pm. Extra time and penalties will follow if the teams are level at the end of regulation time.