The Football Ferns Development Squad bounced back to winning ways on the QBE Stadium Tigerturf on August 10, beating Bucklands Beach 5-0 to consolidate their top-four placing in the U-17 Conference competition.
The opening half-hour of the match was rather scrappy, truth be told, with both teams struggling to string a succession of passes together. Jane Barnett fired the first shot in anger in the seventh minute, drawing a save from Ben Hensley, who had to be alert sixty seconds later when Tayla O'Brien dashed through, the 'keeper dashing out of his penalty area to head the ball to safety.
Soon after, Josh de Ruiter and Akash Dalzell butchered a golden chance to open the scoring for the boys following a defensive mix-up in the Ferns' penalty area - in the words of the legendary Bob Paisley, "If you've got the ball in the opposition's penalty area, and you don't know what to do with it, stick it in the net and we'll discuss the other options afterwards".
Pontificating the other options proved to be their downfall. Talking of falling down, one hopes Cody Bruce discards the footwear he wore in this match, because whenever he went to change direction, the poor lad slipped over!
It must have been quite embarrassing for Bruce, in truth. There he was, surrounded by a host of athletic Amazons, and he spent most of the night putting into practice the title of one of Crowded House's greatest hits, "Fall At Your Feet" …
Gareth Turnbull's charges spurned a great chance to open the scoring in the sixteenth minute. Aimee Phillips did brilliantly to evade both Joe Reps and Ali Alsaffar on the left before whipping in a low cross which careered across the face of goal, just too far in front of O'Brien.
Barnett was backing up, and set up Malia Steinmetz on a plate with her precise cross, only for the midfielder to sky her shot badly from eight yards. Some twenty minutes later, however, she made amends big-time, but before then, de Ruiter twice went close for "the Beach boys", just before the half-hour mark.
In the 34th minute, Phillips' first-time lay-off for Barnett allowed her to send O'Brien haring through the middle. Hensley hurtled out of goal and slammed into his clearance into the oncoming striker, off whom the ball ricocheted wildly. Thankfully for the startled goalkeeper, it didn't fly past him into the net.
A minute later, and it was Bucklands Beach's turn to threaten. Alsaffar, one of four players on the team sheet wearing an unnumbered shirt - Lord alone knows how that state of affairs came about! - pinged the ball forward to Dalzell, who swiftly brought de Ruiter into play.
Meikayla Moore stepped in to thwart him, but de Ruiter enjoyed a judicious bounce, and promptly let fly. The ball cannoned off Liz Anton towards Bruce, who for once stayed on his feet long enough to unleash a shot.
Georgia Brown's intervention brought an end to that particular threat, and sparked a Ferns' counter-attack which featured a deft through ball from Phillips and some outstanding off-the-ball running from Steinmetz, whose reward was to find herself one-on-one with Hensley, under whom she tucked the ball confidently.
1-0 in the 37th minute became 2-0 sixty seconds later. Jana Radosavljevic played the ball wide to speed merchant Brown, who had raced up from fullback to join the attack.
She swept past one opponent before evading a second challenge in the area, which allowed Brown to set up the unmarked Phillips, whose delightful chip arced perfectly into the top far corner of the net, Hensley rendered helpless by the precision of the shot.
Two minutes before half-time, the scorer of the second goal should have tucked home the third. Grace Jale released Brown down the right once more, the flying fullback picking out Phillips with a cross which the striker failed to control when unmarked in front of goal.
The Development Squad began the second spell in sharp form, half-time substitute Hannah Blake engineering an opening which prompted Radosavljevic to let fly from twenty yards.
This drew a save from Hensley before the former Serbian age-grade international rewarded Steinmetz's angled run with a measured pass which invited the midfielder to set up O'Brien for a 51st minute shot which was deflected to safety.
On the hour mark, a by now rare Bucklands Beach raid saw Anton take one for the team at point-blank range when Liam Abrahams let fly. The defender is probably still feeling the effects of the shot, but she shrugged them off fairy quickly during the contest.
The Ferns didn't take kindly to seeing one of the squad's stalwarts in pain, however briefly, for over the course of the next six minutes, they fair peppered the Bucklands Beach goal with a barrage of attempts to inflict further pain on their opponents via the scoreboard.
Hensley was right behind efforts from Phillips, who was inspired by Stenimetz's fine run past two on the left, and the midfielder herself, Blake's burst down the right engineering this 61st minute opening.
Sixty seconds later, it was 3-0, Phillips turning the ball home deftly at the near post to reward Saskia Vosper's superb work on the left, where two opponents were left trailing in her wake - the fullback had a solid game, and was particularly eye-catching in the air.
Radosavljevic led the next raid, within a minute of the goal. The defence frustrated her, but Brown was on hand to pick up the pieces, evade two challenges and unleash a shot which Hensley blocked for a corner.
Phillips' delivery saw Moore's resulting header cleared off the line, while within seconds, Brown once more gave two rivals the slip before delivering a teasing acute-angled cross which Hensley did well to turn over the bar.
Cue another corner, Blake the taker this time, and another header from Moore. This one was spilled by Hensley, but the 'keeper quickly recovered the rebound ahead of the fast-closing figure of Radosavljevic, who went close with an angled drive which narrowly cleared the crossbar sixteen minutes from time.
Sixty seconds earlier, Blake's corner was cleared to Steinmetz, who lobbed the ball into the danger zone once more. Moore was lurking with intent, and caught the sphere perfectly on the volley, only for Hensley to produce the save of the match - a terrific reflex effort to turn the ball over the bar.
Fifteen minutes from time, Anton intercepted a pass on half-way, only for the ball to rebound straight to Devan Holland, who set off downfield at thunderous rate of knots, with Anton in hot pursuit.
Into the penalty area he charged, luring the largely untested figure of Anna Leat out of goal before inviting his team-mates to do the honours courtesy Holland's low cross. Unfortunately for Bucklands Beach, said team-mates hadn't kept pace with their speedy team-mate, so the Ferns were easily able to mop up this time round.
After Jale had inspired an attack which culminated in her rattling the fencing from twenty yards, the Football Ferns Development Squad bagged a fourth goal seven minutes from time.
Vosper and Radosavljevic combined on the left, the latter evading a challenge before delivering an invitation to score into the goalmouth. Substitute Sammi Tawharu duly obliged - 4-0.
Bucklands Beach looked to grab a consolation goal two minutes later when Alsaffar picked out de Ruiter's fine run through the inside right channel. The playmaker lured Leat out of goal, only to direct his shot woefully wide of the target, so much so that the ball ended up nearer the corner flag than the goal.
After Hensley had denied Phillips following a cross from the reintroduced figure of Barnett - she had been withdrawn from the fray at half-time, but returned for the last five minutes of the match.
She was rewarded for doing so, too, belting home a penalty with ninety seconds left to play following a handball offence, the Ferns' having launched a counter-attack in response to a Bucklands Beach raid which culminated in Leat making her lone save of note in the contest, de Ruiter the frustrated player once more.
There's a quick turnaround for Turnbull's team this week, with North Shore United their opponents this Sunday, and Fencibles United seven days later. The final night game of the campaign takes place against Western Springs on Thursday, August 24, the squad's final game in this competition.
Dev Squad: Leat; Brown, Anton, Moore, Vosper (Barnett, 84); Jale, Steinmetz, Barnett (Blake, 46); Phillips, O'Brien (Tawharu, 56), Radosavljevic
Bucklands: Hensley; Cavanagh, Alsaffar, Pullar, Reps; Green, de Ruiter, Bakey; Bruce, Dalzell, Abrahams. Subs: Da Yany, Holland, Ngo
Referee: Bridget Baker