By Jonno Ross
As the season goes into August, the fortunes of teams chasing titles and promotion spots go on the line in northern football’s top leagues.
For the next month, few can afford slip-ups, ensuring some tension-filled games for fans in Auckland and neighbouring regions.
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:
The day’s fixtures are particularly busy as all senior first-team games are all being played on Saturday.
We start in the men’s Northern League with second-placed Auckland United playing fifth-placed Western Springs.
Western Springs look to close the seven-point gap with a victory over the home team to try and secure a top four finish.
With a game in hand, this fixture has added importance and Western Springs will no doubt look to avenge their previous 2-0 loss to Auckland United. Kick-off is at 3pm at Keith Hay Park.
We go to Hamilton next where Melville United host Birkenhead United. This game is labelled a ‘must win’ for the home team if they are to have any chance of making it into the top four. It’s a tough ask for Melville as Birkenhead have had only one loss in their previous 11 matches, and also have the league’s leading marksman, Alexander Grieve, in form with 16 goals for the season of which five have come from his last four games. Kick-off is at 3pm at Gower Park.
In Lotto NRFL Division One, the top two spots for promotion are up for grabs with five teams in contention.
Only five points separate first and fifth positions! Manurewa sit in fourth position, only four points off the top. They play away to Mount Albert Ponsonby who, despite their previous two campaigns, are in eighth spot.
Manurewa hope to pounce on Mount Albert’s frailties in defence as they have conceded nine goals in three games.
Having said that, Mount Albert have also scored 12 in three games. If you want to see an open game full of goals, get down to Anderson Park! Kick-off is at 3pm.
Our other intriguing fixture of the round sees Takapuna playing at home against Ellerslie. Both teams are coming off good results from last week having both picked up important victories.
Ellerslie are 10th and looking for a positive result to distance themselves further from relegation.
Takapuna are chasing an impressive 11 league games in a row undefeated with a win over Ellerslie.
A win for the home side could see them overtake Waiheke and Albany and go first. Will we have a new league leader by the end of the round? Kick-off is at 3pm at Taharoto Park.
In the Lotto NRFL Men’s Division Two, Fencibles United play at home to Oratia. Fencibles will want to eat into the five-point gap between themselves and league leaders Onehunga Mangere United. Oratia will want to do the double over the home team, having beaten them in a thrilling 4-3 in their previous encounter. Kick-off is at 3pm at Riverhills Park.
Cambridge can return to winning ways against Northland after a disappointing 3-0 loss to Fencibles last weekend. They are still in the race for a top-two finish if they can win this weekend, as they are only five points off second spot with a game in hand. Kick-off is at 3pm at Trigg Arena.
We wrap up the weekend’s football on Sunday with the NRFL Women’s Premier League.
We see the same fixture as the men’s Northern League, where Auckland United host Western Springs.
Western Springs will be gunning for the win in the hope league leaders Eastern Suburbs drop points. Being only one point behind the leaders, a win could see them go top.
The other key fixture in this round sees Eastern Suburbs trying to hold their top spot in the league against third-placed Northern Rovers.
Can the away team cause another upset and do the double over Suburbs?
Watch this space.
Main photo: Takapuna fans will be cheering on their side as they try to extend their unbeaten run to 11 games in the Lotto NRFL Division One. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.