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Ferns look to bounce back

Olivia Chance in action against Scotland. Credit: Francesc Juan / www.photosport.nz

The Football Ferns have not had long to plot their response to Sunday’s defeat to Scotland but coach Andreas Heraf says he and his support staff have not needed much time to work out what went wrong.

New Zealand went down 2-0 to the Scots in wet conditions in the first instalment of a two-match series in Spain and Heraf felt his charges did not make their World No 23 opponents work hard enough to find the net.

“We have had our analysis of the game to figure out what didn’t work that well and the outcome was quite straightforward,” he said ahead of the second meeting between the sides tonight (11pm NZT).

“We offered Scotland two gifts to score two goals and we can’t afford to do that again. We also need to focus more on our attacking moments, our delivery of set pieces and how to play better on our counter attacks when we get the ball back.”

Heraf was able to field a strong line-up in the side’s first outing since he was confirmed as coach – he was fulfilling the role on an interim basis on the Thailand tour last November – with two vastly experienced campaigners back in the fold in Sarah Gregorius and Abby Erceg. The latter was on the substitutes’ bench while Gregorius played for over 80 minutes before being replaced by Katie Rood.

Gregorius is relishing her return to the international stage and feels there is more to come from the exciting blend of experience and bright young talent currently in the Ferns’ set-up.

“We were a little bit disappointed with the game just gone, we know we’ve got more to give and we want to make sure we bring everything we’ve got in the next game,” she said. “We’ve focused a lot on our own standards and we really want to kick on and use the next game as an opportunity to take a proper step forward.”

The 30-year-old believes the first-up loss to Scotland may prove a blessing in disguise as it has allowed the Ferns to address some of their weaknesses.

“They caused us some problems in the first game and that’s given us an opportunity to look at a couple of chinks in our armour and to really go away and work on them,”  she said.

Heraf thinks the Scots are a more accomplished outfit than their ranking suggests and will again provide a stern test for the Football Ferns, ranked slightly higher than their opponents at 19th in the world.

“We have seen they are a very good team and, when you look at the FIFA ranking, I don’t think that indicates the real strength of this team,” he said. “They have some really good players and good tactics so it’s not easy to play against them – it’s a good challenge for us.”

He has almost a clean bill of health to select from with only the full fitness of CJ Bott and Emma Rolston in doubt, while Betsy Hassett was an earlier casualty and has been replaced on tour by Liz Anton. In line for a first appearance since returning from retirement is centre back and former captain Erceg, whose presence would be a boost as the Ferns look to tighten defensively.

Regardless of the result in the second match, Gregorius says the time spent in Spain will prove invaluable as the Ferns begin a promising new era under the tutelage of Heraf and assistant coach Gareth Turnbull.

“The more time we can spend together the better,” she says.

“FIFA windows don’t roll around too often and we don’t have this opportunity very often to be together and get in a room to go through the new philosophy and tactics. The chance to get a feel for the new environment is like gold – you have to make the most of it.”

Match Details

Football Ferns vs Scotland
Tuesday 6 March, 11am (11pm NZT)
Pinatar Football Arena
San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain
Highlights available shortly after the game on www.nzfootball.co.nz

New Zealand: 1. Erin Nayler (GK), 2. Ria Percival, 3. Anna Green, 4. CJ Bott, 5. Meikayla Moore, 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 9. Amber Hearn, 10. Annalie Longo, 11. Sarah Gregorius, 14. Katie Bowen, 16. Olivia Chance, 17. Hannah Wilkinson, 19. Abby Erceg, 20. Malia Steinmetz, 21. Anna Leat (GK), 22. Katie Rood, 23. Victoria Esson (GK), 25. Liz Anton, 27. Stephanie Skilton, 29. Emma Rolston
Coach: Andreas Heraf

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