By Jonno Ross
It’s seven months since a ball was kicked in competition but the Northern League returns on Saturday March 26 with a full round of weekend fixtures.
The draw will provide some clues as to the relative strengths of teams, particularly promoted sides such as Waiheke Island and Takapuna City.
Our aim is to suggest which games will produce the best entertainment for the neutral spectator and our weekly previews will try to steer you towards the standout games.
Auckland City v Melville United
The Croatian Club, Te Atatu
We start our football fan weekend with last year’s champions, Auckland City, hosting Melville United at their second home ground, the Croatian Club in Te Atatu.
Auckland City will want to find winning form straight away to defend their title. Having only played Melville once last year due to Covid ending the season early, they will be confident of victory having beaten their opponent by a comfortable 3-0 scoreline last time they met.
Having said that, Melville United will be hungry for the three points to show last season’s 10th placing was a blip, and will want to stay clear from the relegation zone right from the start.
Auckland City striker Angus Kilkolly will be itching to get off the mark and set the pace for the Golden Boot, having finished second last season with 18 goals, just one behind Alex Greive (Birkenhead United) who is now a full-time pro with Scottish Premiership side St Mirren, and a recent addition to the All Whites squad.
Main photo: Angus Kilkolly (left) … how many goals can he bag this year for Auckland City? Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Takapuna City v Eastern Suburbs
Taharoto Park, Takapuna
If you prefer to travel to the North Shore rather than west Auckland, head to Tahoroto Park, where newly-promoted Takapuna host last year’s third-placed finishers Eastern Suburbs.
This should be an intriguing game because it will give Northern League followers an idea of the relative strengths of the two sides and where they might finish come the end of the season.
Eastern Suburbs fans will be expecting to challenge for the title or be thereabouts again this season.
The Chris Milicich-coached Takapuna side will no doubt have survival as their first target after promotion from Lotto NRFL division 1. Will they be able to consolidate their place in the top tier of northern football or will they get dragged into the fight to avoid the dreaded 11th and 12th spots.
We’ll get our first clues on Saturday.
Other fixtures (with last season’s placings):
Auckland United (2) v Birkenhead United (4)
Keith Hay Park, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers (7) v Western Springs (5)
Porritt Stadium, 3pm
Waiheke United (promoted) v Manukau United (8)
Onetangi Sports Park, 3pm
North Shore United (9) v Bay Olympic (6)
Allen Hill Stadium, 3pm