Northern League leaders Auckland City and Birkenhead United both landed big wins as Easter Monday results sorted out early season contenders for spots in the top four.
At the other end of the table, it’s hard to see how Waiheke Island are going to find a win while there’ll be concern among North Shore United fans after conceding 18 goals in their opening five games.
Here’s our round-up of Easter Monday games:
Birkenhead cut loose in front of goal, with five different goalscorers
An extra training session squeezed between their Easter games may have played a key part in unleashing Birkenhead United’s attacking flair.
Despite scoring only four goals in their opening four games, United turned on the heat against Western Springs, beating them 5-2 at Shepherds Park.
Since losing last season’s top goalscorer Alex Greive, United have struggled to find a natural successor but the club found five different goalscorers in their Easter Monday rout.
Cameron Mackenzie, a close season signing from North Wellington, opened the scoring in the 9th minute when he helped disrupt the Springs backline and was then on hand to tap home a cross across the face of the goal.
Springs responded with an equaliser from former New Zealand international Kayne Vincent.
In the 36th minute, United went 2-1 up when Nick Forrester was not marked at a corner and was able to turn the ball home.
Six minutes later, Jackson Woods scored the goal of the game striking a 30-metre shot into the far corner.
Vincent shot wide for Springs as the first half ended with the home side 3-1 ahead.
Straight after the break, Forrester and Jackson combined to set up Levi Wilson for a simple finish in front of goal, stretching United’s lead to 4-1.
In the 64th minute, Oscar Ramsay clipped the Birkenhead post with a rasping free-kick.
At the other end, Springs’ 16-year-old goalkeeper Joe Wallis made an outstanding save to deny a shot from United substitute Luke Allport.
Springs reduced the deficit to 4-2 with seven minutes remaining when sub Kaea Rangihaeata created a chance for Dawson Straffon to put away.
But Birkenhead were not done.
Allport stole the ball from a backpedalling defender into added time, shrugged off a challenge and rounded the ‘keeper to complete the victory.
Before the game, Birkenhead United coach Paul Hobson said he had brought the players in for an extra training session after losing Good Friday’s match to Melville United, giving the team a chance “to put things right”.
If they can maintain their newfound goalscoring touch, it might turn out to be the session that turned a season.
Main photo: Birkenhead players celebrate their fourth goal in front of cheering supporters on the balcony.
Squad rotation pays dividends for league leaders Auckland City
Veteran striker Emiliano Tade came off the bench to score twice in Auckland City’s 7-1 thrashing of North Shore United at Allen Hill Stadium.
Auckland City coach Albert Riera rotated his squad between Good Friday and Easter Monday, making the most of the talent at his disposal.
He left his main striking power in the dugout, naming Tade and Angus Kilkolly as substitutes.
It was an invitation to the rest of his players to find their own pathway to goals.
However, Shore started best and went ahead in the third minute through Mohammed Fardeen Faheem, delighting the home supporters.
In the 15th minute, City levelled through Ryan de Vries, on the comeback trail, and Aidan Carey doubled the Navy Blues’ lead in the 22nd minute.
Captain Angel Berlanga made it 3-1 in the 28th minute, and that’s how the sides went into the break.
Shore knuckled down and put up resistance for much of the second half.
Then Riera rang the changes, bringing Tade and Kilkolly off the bench for the game’s latter stages.
Tade struck twice, in the 73rd minute and then in the 78th minute — his 125th goal for the club.
Sam Brotherton added a sixth for City in the 85th minute and Kilkolly finished a miserable day for Shore with the final goal a minute from time.
Bay Olympic and Eastern Suburbs battle for scoreless draw
Bay Olympic and Eastern Suburbs shared the points in a deadlocked game at Olympic Park, a result that arguably serves the home side more than the Lilywhites.
At least the point keeps Olympic in the top four of the league while Suburbs remains adrift of the qualifying positions for National League, having won only once in their opening sequence of five matches.
Six players were booked — three from each side — and goalscoring chances were shared evenly in a match made difficult by windy conditions.
Bay Olympic goalkeeper Oliver Pocock kept his side in the contest with a superb save from a long-distance Suburbs free-kick in the second spell.
It doesn’t get any easier next weekend for either team — Bay Olympic host Auckland City while Suburbs travel to high-flying Birkenhead United.
Match programme: click on the cover to read Bay Olympic’s match programme.
Late goal snatches win for Manukau United
Substitute Maro Bonsu-Maro grabbed a late winner at Melville United’s Gower Park to help his side climb away from the Northern League’s relegation zone.
Bonsu-Maro (25) was a member of the Cook Islands squad forced to withdraw from last month’s World Cup qualifiers but he’s settled at Manukau United after joining from Auckland City.
His move paid off with his 89th minute effort that gave Manukau a 1-0 win on the road.
Melville’s frustrations during the game were reflected by the six yellow cards dished out by referee CK Kawana-Waugh, two of them in added time as the Waikato side sought a late leveller.
Auckland United stay in top 4 with win at Takapuna
A strong first half performance powered Auckland United to a 3-1 win at Takapuna’s Taharoto Park, keeping the side among the league’s qualifying positions for National League football.
Josh Redfearn opened the scoring in the 8th minute.
Billy Jones added a second after 25 minutes, and United took a 2-0 lead into the dressing rooms at half-time.
United coach Jose Figueira made a double substitution in the 64th minute, to freshen up his side, and with a few minutes, Michael Den Heijer found a third goal.
The 3-0 lead effectively ended the contest but Takapuna kept trying till the end and scored a consolation goal through substitute Daniel Semp as the final whistle approached.
Double from Tieku keeps Wanderers in touch with leading group
Hamilton Wanderers remain in touch with the top four sides after a comprehensive 3-0 win against winless Waiheke Island at Porritt Stadium.
Captain Derek Tieku, who made his 100th appearance for Wanderers in Good Friday’s game at Takapuna, had the chance to celebrate his century with a home game, and he delivered with two important goals.
He put the home side ahead in the 15th minute, giving Wanderers a 1-0 lead at half-time.
In the second half, substitute Ricky Singh doubled Wanderers’ lead in the 73rd minute.
Tieku then closed the deal with his second goal with eight minutes remaining.
Results of games played on Monday April 18, 2022
Bay Olympic 0
Eastern Suburbs 0
Birkenhead United 5 (Cameron Mackenzie 9′, Nick Forrester 37′, Jackson Woods 43′, Levi Wilson 52′, Luke Allport 90+4′)
Western Springs 2 (Kayne Vincent 32′, Dawson Straffon 85′)
Hamilton Wanderers 3 (Derek Tieku 15′, 82′, Ricky Singh 73′)
Waiheke United 0
Melville United 0
Manukau United 1 (Maro Bonsu-Maro 89′)
North Shore United 1 (Mohammed Fardeen Faheem 3′)
Auckland City (Ryan de Vries 15′, Aidan Carey 22′, Angel Berlanga 28′, Emiliano Tade 73′, 78′, Sam Brotherton 85′, Angus Kilkolly 89′)
Takapuna 1 (Daniel Semp 90′)
Auckland United 3 (Josh Redfearn 8′, Billy Jones 25′, Michael Den Heijeer 68′)