By Jonno Ross
The Northern League big guns will aim for six points each over Easter as they line up for two games in four days.
Leaders Birkenhead United face teams currently 7th and 11th, while nearest rivals Auckland City have games against the 10th and 12th ranked sides.
On paper, they should get two wins from two … but football often shows little respect for form, especially when the games come so close together.
We fancy a couple of games between sides sitting in no-man’s land where both badly need to win.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Takapuna (8th) v Hamilton Wanderers (5th)
Taharoto Park, Auckland
After a tough three-game schedule since winning promotion to the Northern League, Takapuna do not have it any easier this week when they come up against an undefeated Hamilton Wanderers.
Taka will want to take their chances when the opportunities present themselves because the games have been close affairs with only one goal being the difference between winning and losing.
This league has shown them what they already knew; that it won’t be easy in any games but they have what they need in their locker to get results and be worthy competitors.
Hamilton Wanderers are coming off what you would have to say is a good result against Auckland City last weekend with a 1-1 draw.
Being one of only three sides still undefeated in the league (having drawn two and won once), the Waikato side want to keep that record intact and earn themselves a victory to climb up the table from 5th place.
This will be another tight game for both teams, having both conceded a mere three each.
This game has the makings of an epic match, where one mistake or a moment of brilliance could be enough to deliver the win. It could go either way.
Manukau United (9th) v Bay Olympic (3rd)
Murdoch Park, Auckland
After a disappointing last two rounds, Manukau need to get their season back on track.
They started their season with a convincing 3-0 win against newly-promoted Waiheke United. Since then, they have been kept scoreless and have conceded six goals in two games, losing 4-0 to Auckland United, then losing last weekend 2-0 to a struggling North Shore United.
If they want a result on Friday, they will need to tighten their defence against a decent Bay Olympic team.
Bay Olympic will be determined to get back their top spot, after being knocked off last week in a close encounter with Birkenhead United, losing 1-0 in their first home game of the season.
They will aim to take advantage of Manukau’s defensive frailties and returning to winning ways.
They will look at this game as the perfect opportunity to do so and if other results go their way, they will reclaim the top spot on the ladder.
Other fixtures (with current league placings):
Auckland City (2nd) v Waiheke United (12th)
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, 3pm
Western Springs (11th) v North Shore United (10th)
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 3pm
Auckland United (4th) v Eastern Suburbs (6th)
Keith Hay Park, Auckland 3pm
Birkenhead United (1st) v Melville United (7th)
Shepherd’s Park, Auckland, 3pm
North Shore United v Auckland City
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, 3pm
Takapuna v Auckland United
Taharoto Park, Auckland, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers v Waiheke United
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 3pm
Birkenhead United v Western Springs
Shepherds Park, Auckland, 3pm
Bay Olympic v Eastern Suburbs
Olympic Park, Auckland, 3pm
Melville United v Manukau United
Gower Park, Hamilton, 3pm
How they stand
In case you missed it
Here’s the full game from last weekend’s Takapuna v Melville United game: