A first-half hat-trick from Matt Ellis set up an exciting 5-3 win for Auckland City against Western Springs in their midweek Northern League fixture.
Playing under the lights at Seddon Fields, the Springs squad showed their respect for Auckland City, forming a guard of honour to welcome the champions onto the pitch.
City fielded a strong team but rested key players such as All White Cam Howieson, Dylan Manickum and Gerard Garriga, who was carrying a knock during the side’s recent OFC Champions League campaign.
Alfie Rogers was making his 100th first team appearance for the Navy Blues.
City went ahead after only seven minutes when Ellis ran through the Springs defence and slipped the ball past ‘keeper Joe Wallis.
A few minutes later, Joe Lee got on the end of a fast City break to make it 2-0.
Oscar Browne had a couple of shots for Springs, having one saved by goalkeeper Cam Brown and the other went wide of the near post.
In the 42nd minute, Ellis scored his second goal, set up for him by Christian Gray.
A minute later, Ellis completed his hat-trick.
The sides went into the break with City leading 4-0.
Six minutes into the second spell, Kenta Nakashima created a chance for Browne who smacked the ball home to reduce the deficit to 4-1.
But within a minute, City veteran Emiliano Tade made it 5-1.
On the hour, Springs pulled the score back to 5-2 when good interplay between Browne and Dawson Straffon set up substitute Kayne Vincent for a goal.
In the 79th minute, Wade Molony struck a sweet shot to reduce the gap to 5-3, giving home supporters hope of a late comeback.
But it wasn’t to be, and City completed win No. 20 in an undefeated league season that sees them go into the weekend’s final game with a 14 point lead over nearest rivals Birkenhead United.
The Navy Blues are now undefeated in 31 league and cup games this year, and are but two games away from completing an unbeaten season.
Main photo: Matt Ellis (left) … a first-half hat-trick. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Game played Wednesday August 31, 2022
Western Springs 3 (Oscar Browne 52′, Kayne Vincent 62′, Wade Molony 80′)
Auckland City 5 (Matt Ellis 7′, 43′, 44′, Joe Lee 11′, Emiliano Tade 53′)