Margins for error start to tighten as Northern League clubs push for top spots

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With 14 rounds played, Northern League clubs are starting to bunch on the competition table as they push for top four finishes and the chance to qualify for the new-look National League.

For football fans in the North, every weekend now has must-win games and the promise of entertaining fixtures.

For the neutrals

If you’re looking for the games we’re picking to be the most entertaining, we suggest the following for football fans in the North:

Friday

Get the weekend of football. underway with a floodlit game at Phyllis St, Auckland, when Metro FC hosts Manurewa in the Lotto NRFL first division (7.30pm).

Saturday

There’s a full round of Northern League games, all starting at 3pm. Auckland City look sure to win the title, having a 12-point lead, but five clubs are clustered in the race to fill the next three qualifying spots.

Of them, only sixth-placed Hamilton Wanderers face a team in the top half when they host Auckland City at Porritt Stadium, Hamilton.

The other contenders all play sides in the lower half of the table – but which of them will slip up?

  • Auckland United (2nd) are at home to Northern Rovers (11th).
  • Eastern Suburbs (3rd) travel to North Shore United (7th).
  • Birkenhead United (4th) host Western Springs (8th).
  • Melville United (5th) head to West Coast Rangers (12th).

A day of surprises … or will results run to form, simply increasing the pressure on those chasing Auckland City?

Of these games, we’re tipping North Shore United to give Eastern Suburbs a scare at Allen Hill Stadium.

In Lotto NRFL Division 1, third-placed Takapuna City can make ground on leaders Albany United and Waiheke United if they can beat Tauranga City at Taharoto Park (3pm).

Photo: Takapuna host Tauranga City. Image courtesy of Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Our pick of the day in Division 2 is the Waikato derby between Claudelands Rovers and form team Cambridge, who have won four games on the bounce. These derbies have produced plenty of goals and some tight finishes in recent years – why would this year’s be any different?

Sunday

The women’s Premier League has three fixtures on Sunday – our pick is the match between leaders Western Springs and a resurgent Hamilton Wanderers who have recovered from a poor start to the season with wins in the league and Kate Sheppard Cup.

Springs are hard to roll but Wanderers are in the mood. Kick-off is at 1.30pm at Seddon Fields.

Sunday also sees the crunch fixture in Lotto NRFL Division 1 between table-topping Albany United and second-placed Waiheke United.

If Albany wins the match at Rosedale Park, Albany, (3pm) they will put clear air between themselves and chasers Waiheke and Takapuna. A win to Waiheke and the title chase becomes a three-way battle.