A rainy Tuesday night set the scene for the MPL promotion decider between Selwyn United and Christchurch United. Under the floodlights at Selwyn’s Foster park with a vibrant home crowd that got to witness Selwyn’s first ever promotion into the Mainland top tier competition, Mainland Premier League.
A point was all that was needed for Selwyn to clinch the title and gain promotion to the MPL, while Christchurch knew if they could grab a win here, they could put serious pressure on Selwyn in the coming weeks. Selwyn were without attacking midfielder Kieran Pinkney as he is heading over to Spain for a trial. While Christchurch United were without Henry Finnis through illness and recent centre forward acquisition from Parklands United, Tom Chadwick, through injury.
Selwyn United lined up in a 433 formation, a switch from their 343 variant they had been working with for most of the season. This still had key elements of what made their 343 so successful with ball playing centre halves, fast wingers and with a ‘false 9’. Their back 4 consisted of two fullbacks who had license to go forward and two ball playing centre halves in Booth and Mulcahy who both are traditionally holding midfielders. Their midfield 3 consisted of two industrious workmen Corrodus and Henderson in front of McKay and stayed deep in an anchorman role as he sat in front of the two centre halves at all times. The front 3 consisted of Barbour-Ryan showing tendencies of what you could call a ‘false 9’ by dropping deep and was flanked by rapid wingers Samonte-Martin and the always dangerous Ede.
Christchurch United lined up in a narrow 4231 with their ‘wide’ players tucking in very narrow to implement almost three 10’s behind the lone striker Chang. In goal was Gordon, who was protected by a back four of Curry, Ferris, Constantine and Fowler. Two holding midfielders were Brooker, who held deep and van Gool who joined in with attacks. Ahead of these two, were the three ‘10s’ going from right to left, van der Bergh, Toohey, Alvarez. Van der Bergh gave width at times when van Gool pushed up. Chang spearheaded the line-up and looked to move into channels and get behind Selwyn’s defence.
It was a game where CUFC were going to have to come out and attack, looking for that win and from the get go they had Selwyn on the back foot. A great chance fell to Chang in the opening minutes but a great save from Amyes denied a CUFC lead. The game soon became very open with constant attacks opening up from either side. Selwyn tended to sit back before launching counter attacks in rapid pace which caught the attacking minded CUFC side to reassess the game and slow things down a notch.
Despite Selwyn’s defence sitting deep to nullify Changs pace, they used very clever pressing triggers on CUFC’s defence to great effect. Selwyn’s front 3 with help of the 2 centre midfielders would close down options and press the CUFC fullbacks in possession. The pace of Selwyn’s front three managed to do this very well causing unease and mistakes coming from CUFC’s build-up play that they usually do so well. This made CUFC have to go more route-one than they were expecting and skip midfield going straight to Chang who would drop deep to collect, but the 3 attacking midfielders failed to find their touch on game and get beyond Chang. This route also skipped their key playmaker, van Gool who is arguably the best player in the division. These turnovers high up the field led to multiple chances from Selwyn to only be denied from an inform Gordon in goal
Selwyn struggle to take chances
Throughout the game saw Selwyn have the better and higher quality of chances, and if it was not for Gordons heroic performance in goal for CUFC, Selwyn could have had this game wrapped up at half time. Some great 1 on 1 saves, aerial catches and close range shot stopping had Selwyn wondering whether they would ever be able to find a way past CUFC goalkeeper who would become player of the match in my view.
Joy to watch Selwyn attack
The front 3 of Selwyn were entertaining and effective creating chances from various set ups. Barbour-Ryan dropped deep into midfield and either making splitting passes or dribbling at the CUFC defence which caused havoc at times as he drifted past multiple tackles. The wide forwards of Samonte-Martin and Ede’s pace and direct dribbling was a weapon itself. These two players stayed wide isolating the CUFC fullbacks trying to draw 1vs1 situations which more often than not got the better of their opposition. Ede and Samonte-Martin would swap flanks at times, while CUFC fullback Curry would follow Ede, man marking him which resulted in some heated challenges. The pace was also effective in the counter attacks Selwyn produced, Ede especially coming close on multiple occasions after some great transition from defence to attack. Ede would score Selwyn’s first goal and equalizer around the 70th minute from a well placed shot from the edge of the area. Later on substitute Arnott slotted home a great low cross from Barbour-Ryan.
Christchurch United knew that if they would be patient a game winning goal could still come as it was still 0-0 going into the 2nd half. 5 minutes in CUFC did just that, a corner from van Gool was headed home from club captain Constanti. Soon after that CUFC pulled off van Gool due to him being on a yellow card, however still was seen as an odd decision as debutant Falconer took his place. While CUFC struggled to keep possession with van Gool on it was only going to be harder without him, especially now with Chang having no attacking support from any of his midfielders. CUFC tried to nullify Selwyns wingers by showing the fullbacks inside, however this just drew the ball straight to Barbour-Ryan who was just as dangerous as explained above. Ball-Winning midfielder Brooker struggled in an overrun midfield and was being stretched all over the place opening gaps which Selwyn soon punished on with the two goals coming in the final 20 minutes to make it a 2-1 win.
Selwyn were clear winners on the night and winners of the league. If it was not for CUFC goalkeeper Gordon things would have been a lot worse. CUFC did have some chances and played decent football at times but it was too sparingly to cause any overall threat, with Chang unable to be as effective as he potentially could with the lack of any other attacking danger. I do not see Selwyn having any problems in the MPL next year and is this another year in the CCL for CUFC?