Cromb happy, amazed to be top of world

Southern United defender Andrew Cromb shoots at goal at Logan Park Turf this week. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Southern United defender Andrew Cromb shoots at goal at Logan Park Turf this week. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN

Three months ago, Andrew Cromb did not see himself where he is now.

He did not think he would be in the Southern United national football premiership starting XI.

He did not think he would have scored two late goals.

He certainly did not think one of those would be to draw a game and one to win.

But that is now reality for the 18-year-old defender.

The former Kavanagh College pupil has started all three games since the Christmas break.

In the first of those, he scored an 85th-minute goal to secure a 1-1 draw against the Wellington Phoenix Reserves.

Last weekend he buried another in the 85th minute to take a 2-1 win over Canterbury United.

Perhaps that should be an ominous warning for the Eastern Suburbs defence, as the home team prepares to meet Southern in Auckland tomorrow.

If nothing else, it will be facing a youngster who is ‘‘on top of the world’’, although a little unexpectedly so.

‘‘Definitely not,’’ Cromb said if he thought he would be in this position at the start of the season.

‘‘I was expecting to be a player at training that they used as sort of the whipping boy.

‘‘But I’m happy to accept the challenge and keep going.’’

Cromb, who is working with children at Kelly Sports, was hardly a known goal-scorer at lower levels and had been ‘‘quite surprised’’ to net two.

He put it down to being in the right place at the right time.

But  he has still had to finish both, something he has done well.

‘‘The first time I had no time to think about it.

‘‘The second one I was just praying I didn’t sky it over the cross bar.

‘‘So I was just happy to keep it down and put it in.’’

Despite that, his focus remained on his primary job — stopping the opposition scoring.

After debuting at 16 two seasons ago as a substitute, he was injured last summer season.

He headed to Auckland over the winter and played for Birkenhead United.

That had been a great experience and he hoped to go back again this coming winter.

Notably, it had helped him make faster decisions, although he said he had made plenty of progress in that since he returned as well.

That pace of the game was the biggest adjustment to playing at the national league level.

However, he said players such as Conor O’Keeffe and Stephen Last, alongside the coaching team, had been crucial in helping him through.

‘‘I’m starting to feel more comfortable.

‘‘But each team is different and each team has a different way of playing.

‘‘It’s all about learning what they’re doing and learning how I can adjust my game.

‘‘It’s coming along but nothing’s a definite for me.’’

Cromb was expecting a tough challenge from Eastern Suburbs, a side Southern had never beaten.

He said they were good at holding possession for long periods, meaning opportunities were likely to be few for Southern.

Taking the ones that do present themselves will be key, something Cromb has proven better than most at.
Kickoff is at noon.

National premiership
Southern Utd v Eastern Subs
Auckland, tomorrow, noon

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