Western Springs AFC – Match Report vs Auckland United (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. Western Springs are not on target to qualify for the national league but at the time of writing, they still have a slim chance of making it. 


  • 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

Keegan Kelly 

Player profile:

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Age: 18
  • Date of birth: 05/06/2005
  • Current club: Western Springs
  • Career: East Coast Bays
  • Position: Striker
  • Preferred foot: Right 

Keegan Kelly played as a striker for Western Springs in this match. He stood out for his physical traits, which were especially impressive considering how young he is. The only source I could find for Kelly’s height is the football manager database which lists him as 6’3. I think that may be a little optimistic but he’s certainly tall. He was very good at using his size to receive the ball with players on his back.

He often dropped deeper to receive the ball and he was able to either retain it or force a defender to foul him the majority of the time. He was also quite good at posting up on defenders to turn into space. Kelly is also quite quick, making him a potential target for balls in behind and allowing him to accelerate away from defenders quickly. Kelly was born in 2005 so you have to imagine he’s only going to get stronger and faster from here. His on-the-ball ability is not bad. His first touch is ok, and he has some level of dribbling ability but I wouldn’t say it’s a core strength.

Kelly did a fair amount of defensive work, his pace being a real asset to close opposing defenders down. Where he could improve is in the timing and selection of his off-the-ball runs. There were a lot of times when the ball was in wide areas where Kelly would make a run too soon, get sucked too close to the goal, and effectively remove himself as an option to receive the ball. There were also times when I thought he could have made a run into the box but he instead dropped off to receive a shorter pass. 

Rating – A2

I would say, based on this game, that Kelly’s potential is incredibly high. If he can tidy up his off-the-ball movement a little bit then he was the makings of an incredible striker. Of course, it’s kind of hard to follow players whose teams don’t qualify for the National League, as only one regional game is broadcast every week. The Transfermarkt data on the New Zealand leagues has also been updated more sporadically this year so it’s hard to know even basic facts like how many goals he has scored or how much he has played. So if this game is representative of Kelly’s regular performances (and I have no real way of knowing if it is) I think he could reach a high level in Europe.

Jackson Manuel

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Age: 20
  • Date of Birth: 24/02/2003
  • Current club: Western Springs
  • Career: Wellington Phoenix, Tasman United
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Right

Jackson Manuel played as a midfielder for Western Springs in this match. For the most part, he played as a deep-lying playmaker. Jackson is very smooth with the ball and is one of the best passers I have seen in New Zealand domestic football. He was very good at receiving the ball in deeper areas and progressing the ball through passing. He was equally adept at hitting long-range and short-range passes. He broke lines regularly and was comfortable using both feet.

His first touch and overall technical ability were very sound. He did use skill to get out of difficult situations a couple of times and he is very ball secure in general. However, he is not a ball carrier. Manuel’s contributions in the final 3rd are limited but he did pop up there a few times. He connected well with Kelly and he also got a shot of his own at one point. He’s also not a huge defensive force. His positioning is quite good but he’s not the strongest or that good of a 1v1 defender. So he’s an amazing passer but that’s pretty much all you are getting.

These relative weaknesses are far from a dealbreaker as Manuel offers so much with his passing. But it does mean that he needs to be played with players who complement his skillset. I doubt he would work as a lone #6, he would have to be played next to someone with much stronger ball-winning skills. 

Rating – A1

Manuel has a very specific set of skills but those skills are well above the level of New Zealand football. He has already made some cameos in the A-League but was ultimately cut loose by the Wellington Phoenix. I think he could be an impactful player in a mid-tier European League, perhaps somewhere in Scandinavia. 

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