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Friday, October 07 2022
Striker's goal as Rovers take aim at National League opposition

As Napier City Rovers look to secure points in back-to-back National League clashes, one of their main attacking threats says the club shouldn't be classified as underdogs.

The Bill Robertson-coached side takes on Christchurch United in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon in round two action of New Zealand Football's National League.

The clash comes seven days after teenaged midfielder Sam Lack became a goal-scoring hero when his crisply taken 72nd minute goal secured the team a 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix Reserves at Napier's Bluewater Stadium.

Christchurch United – who are backed by a Russian-born multi-millionaire – lost 3-1 in their opening round to Melville United.

Napier City Rovers are widely viewed as underdogs by rival clubs' supporters, something Canadian import Leaford Allen believes is partly based on their fourth-placed finish in the Central League.

The spot on the table would have been higher if not for a couple of disappointing results towards the end of the Central League.

Ahead of their second round National League game, Allen says his teammates must dream big and realise they have the ability to match it with everyone they are set to face – including Auckland City and Eastern Suburbs who earlier battled it out for Chatham Cup supremacy.

"Here's the thing . . . I feel like the table didn't really show how well we performed," Allen said.

"Every team we have played, I have not felt fear from; I did not feel worried.

"I am not going to disrespect the Chatham Cup final, but I also felt that watching those two teams, it showed that we still have the capability of playing with those guys. It doesn't feel as if there is a big gap [in quality], that we are coming in as a Cinderella story like Leicester City coming out of nowhere [to win the Premier League].

"I can guarantee that, as long as we put in that effort, we will go well."

That includes saying the team should be gunning for a top-four finish in the National League.

"With the group of guys, it is definitely capable," he said.

The strongly built Allen, who stands at 1.85m, has proved to be a handful for opposition teams in the Central League. Teammates have also benefited from the at-times double marking on the striker, with the defensive concentration directed his way creating space for them.

The 27-year-old was also the club's top-scorer – along with Jonny McNamara – during their Central League campaign.

Allen has fully immersed himself in football since arriving in Hawke's Bay.

"Right now it is soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer . . . that is all I keep thinking about," he said.

When not training, he has been studying video of both his own side and those Napier City Rovers will play in the National League.

Allen has also been part of the coaching staff at Napier City Rovers school holiday programmes over the past two holiday breaks.

Prior to heading to New Zealand, he juggled his football with working in a Chrysler assembly plant and also studying computer engineering.

He joined Napier City Rovers in the early stages of this year's Central League after talking to his agent about potential opportunities offshore which could build his profile as a player.

"There was the idea that coming here would help build publicity for myself and create opportunities to play in the higher professional league football," he said.

His arrival was welcomed by fans of the club after YouTube highlights reels featuring some of his goal highlights in the Canadian leagues.

And he has made an impressive impact on the pitch since his arrival.

A previous overseas stint had seen Allen travel to Sweden where he played for two second division clubs during a two-season spell; Tenhults IF in 2017 and Nassjo FF in 2018.

"Soccer is something that I love," Allen said. It is something that I want to pursue."

"I knew that if I wanted to take that opportunity I would have to leave a lot of what I had built up back in Canada. That is one of the things that motivates me when I am here . . . knowing that I had to make a sacrifice and I know that at my age, if I want to do this then I have to push for it."

Asked for his favourite non-football thing about being based in Hawke's Bay, Allen nominated "relaxation".

Coming from the "hustle and bustle" of Toronto – which has a population of 2.9 million – he said his new home 13,800km away afforded him the opportunity to switch off from life's pressures when he wanted.

"You come here you are allowed to shut yourself off for a bit, you are allowed to just relax in the environment," he said. "It is much more relaxed, everyone is taking it a day at a time.

"And people here have treated me like family. You wear that Rovers sweater . . . and everyone here is one big family.

"With the guys here [at Napier City Rovers] it was actually very easy for me to mold myself into this group. They opened their arms to me."

Posted by: AT 03:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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