After a wait of three weeks, game day for our Chatham Cup Quarter Final against North Shore United is finally a reality.
Heading up into unknown territory with this being our first Quarter Final and a first game against North Shore preparation could not have been better, giving us every opportunity to claim another cup win and extend our run to the final four.
Confidence in the squad is as high as it has been. Riding a wave of form which has seen us win our last six fixtures which include securing Southern League qualification, Chatham Cup wins away to Green Island and South City Royals, and winning our first two Southern League games to be top of the table after the first two rounds.
To the game itself, we have researched North Shore United as much as any team we have faced this season, fortunate to have had coaching staff in Auckland for periods of 2021 taking in Northern League fixtures and highlights of their game being available online. We expect this game will be more physical than we have had this year and the pace of the game to be a step up, though we relish this challenge.
With a full squad to call on including two recent additions who have added quality to our lineup are Ben Deeley and Nic Kittelty.
Ben was with OUAFC last year before an injury early season out him out of action and he spent the better part of a year in rehabilitation before hitting the ground running in his first match against Roslyn Wakari where he added a genuine attacking threat and won the crucial penalty that was dispatched by Aidan Barbour-Ryan. In recent weeks he has been consistently on the scoresheet and currently tops the Golden Boot standings for the Southern League.
Nic represents our only outsider (being a graduate of Lincoln University and working for Otago Cricket) and came to us mid-season predominantly as a left-back having previously turned out for Selwyn United. It was his move to center-back as we approached University holidays that added solidity to our defense and his partnership with Tim O’Farrell is getting better with each game. Nic’s ball-playing qualities were on show last weekend after Selwyn as he opened their backline up for the first goal scored by Ben Deeley
The rest of the squad is full of quality with ex-National Youth League keeper Neil Achary the starter backed up by Sam Prystupa a New Zealand Citizen who was raised in Canada and came to Otago to study his Masters. Neil is one of three third-year Medicine students in our side (En Watanabe and Oban Hawkins being the others) and has proven to be a strong custodian between the sticks.
In front of the keepers, our full-back ranks include two ballplayers in Tom Stewart (a converted midfielder from Selwyn), Finn Rathbone (a converted winger and third of the Rathbone brothers to play for OUAFC), and a third in Albie Murray (last year’s Players Player and someone you want on your side with his committed attitude).
Our midfield has been a strength over the last three years and it was a recent change in personnel to bring Ben Stanley into the midfield from an attacking position which has made this even stronger. Forming a triumvirate with Ben O’Farrell and Oban Hawkins this midfield is technically proficient with the two Ben’s adding steel alongside Oban’s known ball-playing qualities with all three providing a goal scoring threat. Ben O and Oban will stay on after the match to attend a New Zealand Futsal Training camp, further highlighting their ability to play at a high level. To supplement the three we have Sam Murray who joined us this year as a first-year student and provides good versatility across the pitch.
Upfront, Ben Deeley is joined by En Watanabe, Aidan Barbour-Ryan, Yun Sung Chang, and Jack Kelly. Ben, Aidan, and Yun Sung are a trio of wingers who make life difficult for any fullback with their close control and ability to finish with either foot. Aidan joined us this year and his speed on the ball has been crucial in a number of tight games including our recent wins over Roslyn and South City with Yun Sung, a Year 13 student at Otago Boys one of the players who consistently scored early on in the season when we were in great form. Jack was another mid-season addition with his experiences playing in Auckland (ex Birkenhead United), left foot strike, and speed making him useful especially if this Saturday’s game is tight. Our final attacking option is En Watanabe who will play through the middle, using his size and tight control to occupy defenders. En has also scored in each of our Chatham Cup ties this season and currently leads our club Golden Boot race.
Squad in full
Yun Sung Chang
As a final message, the entire team thanks the footballing community for their support in helping get us to to the game. This is the biggest game for the club possibly in our history and the support provided ensures the team is ready for the challenge.