Auckland United – Match Report vs. Western Springs (18/08/2023)

Western Springs defeated Auckland United 4-1 in New Zealand Northern League action. On paper, this was a major upset but Auckland United, having already qualified for the National League, gave opportunities to several young players. The game was close than the scoreline would suggest but Western Springs were able to exploit some inexperience in the Auckland backline. Although Auckland’s team suffered from a lack of experience, some of the players did show the potential to move on to bigger and better things.


  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Daniel Atkinson

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 02/04/2003
  • Current club: Auckland United
  • Career: Western Suburbs, VV Katwijk
  • Position: Attacking Midfielder 
  • Preferred foot: Right

Daniel Atkinson played as an attacking midfielder in this match. At times he was in a wide right position and at other times he was more central. But regardless of where he was on the pitch, his role was to make off-the-ball runs and get into dangerous scoring positions. He was, dare I say it, a Raumdeuter.

Atkinson was very good at hitting the seam between a centre-back and a fullback. He is quick and fairly strong so it’s hard for defenders to catch up with him if he evades them with his off-the-ball movement. He had a lot of shots inside the penalty area in this match, mostly the result of receiving passes in behind or cut back to him. On the ball, he was a little bit weaker. His 1v1 dribbling was ok but not reliable by any means. If he were to move to a higher level you would have to imagine that his dribbling would be a weakness. His first touch was also a bit inconsistent. There were some instances where he displayed good close control and other times where his touch was a bit heavy.

This means that he is much more dangerous receiving the ball in space than he is with the ball at his feet. But, as I mentioned previously, he’s very good at receiving the ball in space. Atkinson also tracks back quite a lot to make tackles. His physical traits help him to be effective in winning physical battles. 

Rating – A2

It seems plausible to me that Atkinson could take his off-the-ball running skills and positive physical traits to a higher level. He has already made one attempt, having spent time with Dutch 3rd-tier side VV Katwijk where he failed to break through. So it would have to be a pretty low level to start out with. But he’s young and has some good things going for him so I could see him having a decent career at the professional level. 

Benji McCarthy

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Age: 17
  • Date of Birth: 08/10/2005
  • Current club: Auckland United
  • Position: Midfielder 
  • Preferred foot: Right

Benji McCarthy played as a #8 for Auckland United in this match and impressed me immensely with his chance creation and defensive contributions. McCarthy played on the right side of a midfield three. He was very effective at operating from the right half-space. He connected well with Daniel Atkinson, playing him behind on a couple of occasions. He also put in some good crosses and created a lot of shots that way. He also took corners and put in some very dangerous deliveries.

He has good vision and in addition to his shot contributions, he played a lot of passes into the penalty area. But, bringing his effectiveness down a peg or two was his poor first touch. McCarthy lost the ball a lot due to his inability to bring the ball under his control in a timely manner. He was also quite ball-insecure in general. His balance is not very good and there were several times where he just kind of fell over and lost the ball. His movements also look a little stiff, and that can slow him down on the ball. Although his passing in the final 3rd created a lot of chances he was not as good at holding on to the ball in the build-up phase. That said, he did have a couple of moments where he was able to dribble out of danger so perhaps there is some room for him to become more useful in the build-up.

Defensively McCarthy stood out. He was good at closing players down and often tracked back to make useful interventions. He’s not necessarily a brilliant 1v1 defender but he’s an effective presser and quite mobile which compliments his role as an aggressive #8. 

Rating – A2

McCarthy is not a great dribbler but overall he was an effective creator and he did good defensive work. He has not played a huge amount of senior minutes yet and spending more time in New Zealand is probably best for him. But based on this performance I would say he has the potential to jump into professional football within the next 24 months. 

Oliver Middleton

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Age: 18
  • Date of Birth: 19/09/2005
  • Current club: Auckland United
  • Position: Defensive midfielder 
  • Preferred foot: Left

Oliver Middleton played as the deepest of Auckland’s midfield three. I don’t think that will end up being his best role but overall he turned in a solid performance that makes me think he has the potential to reach a higher level. Middleton’s best skill is his passing and his ability to progress the ball from deeper areas. Middleton displayed a good range of passing, though he could be a little bit more consistent. His passing was mostly to link play or change the point of a build-up. He liked to get on the ball in deeper areas and play short-range sideways passes to teammates.

He also displayed some ability to play long-range passes, at one point playing a pass in behind the Western Springs defence from well inside his own half. But there were also a few times when he got the weight and direction of those passes wrong. There were also times when he passed up the opportunity for a riskier pass in favour of a safer one. So although he can play raking passes he has work to do at applying that skill more often. On his one big foray forward of the match, Middleton was much too slow to play a pass in transition. So more confidence and better decision-making on the ball is an area he can clearly improve. But it seems he has the raw ability to make those improvements.

Defensively Middleton demonstrated the ability to win the ball back but he could have been more active. When facing dribblers he was rarely, if ever, beaten but he’s not the sort of defensive midfielder who is going to cover every blade of grass hunting the ball down, at least not yet. 

Rating – A2

Middleton has some areas to improve but considering his age and the qualities he does have I think he has a professional future. If he was going to be a player in a top-5 league he would probably be a little further along at this stage but A-League or a European league of similar stature seems plausible to me. 

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