By Jonno Ross
It’s getting tough at the top! As we go into round three of this year’s Northern League we’re quickly experiencing that feeling of ‘must win’ games and it’s only April.
The top four teams all meet each other at 3pm on Saturday. By 5pm, the table will look quite different.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Bay Olympic (1st) v Birkenhead United (3rd)
Olympic Park, Auckland
We start our preview with what we expect will be the game of the round, whether you are a supporter of either club or a neutral in search of entertaining football.
The game is also special because Bay Olympic are using their first home fixture of the season to honour former Life Member and New Zealand international Ian Ormond who died last October, aged 72.
The club is calling on friends and fans of Ormond — considered by many to be among the best players of his generation — to attend the match and to share memories in the clubrooms.
Both teams come into the game in red-hot form, having won both their fixtures in the previous two rounds.
Bay Olympic are level on points with Birkenhead, only claiming top spot with a superior goal difference.
You could argue that Bay Olympic have had the easier start to the campaign, having crushed North Shore United 4-0 in the opening game, and beating Melville 3-2 last weekend.
They will appreciate playing at home for the first time this season, with an expectant crowd backing them to stay top of the league.
Birkenhead will play their third game on the road, beating Auckland United 1-0 in the opening round and winning last week against North Shore United 2-1.
They will want to keep their momentum rolling and steal pole position on the table.
Both teams have demonstrated balance, each with a strong attack and a tight defence; neither team will want to surrender their perfect start.
Someone will have to drop points. Will it be Bay or Birko or maybe both? Watch this space.
Auckland United (5th) v Western Springs (8th)
Keith Hay Park, Auckland
After picking up their first win of the season last weekend with a convincing 4-0 victory over a strong Manukau United team, Auckland United will want to build on that and generate upward movement on the league table.
In their last fixture against Western Springs, they came off second-best going down in their biggest defeat of their campaign 4-1 at home.
I’m sure they haven’t forgotten that, and neither will their fans who will want revenge on a Western Springs team that are always up for the fight and know what it takes to beat this good Auckland United outfit.
Other fixtures (with current league placings):
Takapuna (6th) v Melville United (10th)
Taharoto Park, Auckland, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers (4th) v Auckland City (2nd)
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 3pm
Waiheke United (9th) v Eastern Suburbs (11th)
Onetangi Sports Park, Waiheke Island, 3pm
North Shore United (12th) v Manukau United (7th)
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, 3pm
How they stand
In case you missed it
Here’s the full game from last weekend’s Melville Untied-Bay Olympic game: