By Jonno Ross
The Northern League has a familiar look about it already … Auckland City at the top of the table and the rest trying to keep up.
This weekend, the Navy Blues get chance to increase their margin over the chasing pack while most clubs will hope Bay Olympic can tip them over at Olympic Park, to give the challengers chance to catch up.
Main photo: Auckland City’s Emiliano Tade is found his goalscoring touch. Image: Phototek.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Bay Olympic (4th) v Auckland City (1st)
Olympic Park, Auckland
After picking up four points over Easter weekend with 3-2 away win over Manukau United, and a 0-0 draw at home to Eastern Suburbs, Bay Olympic will have to be at the peak of their powers this weekend against a rampant Auckland City team who sit top of the league by one point.
Bay will want to get some consistency back with their results, having won only one of their last three games.
Despite their mixed results, they are only three points behind the leaders sitting in 4th, and will want the points to close the gap.
Auckland City will no doubt be looking to extend the gap at the top to give them a bit of wriggle room, because right now only three points separates 1st and 4th.
The Navy Blues are the only team in the top four to pick up maximum points over the Easter weekend, having scored 11 goals and conceding just the one.
Strikers Emiliano Tade and Angus Kilkolly seem to be hitting their straps, having both scored in both games over the weekend. As per usual, Auckland City are the team to stop, and the teams below them will hope Bay Olympic can reel them back in.
Birkenhead United (2nd) v Eastern Suburbs (9th)
Shepherds Park, Auckland
Birkenhead United started Easter weekend with a slight stumble, going down 1-0 at home to Melville United on Good Friday.
They then regathered on Monday to bounce back with a solid 5-2 win over Western Springs, with five different players on the scoresheet.
They will expect a win against Eastern Suburbs, who are currently sitting 9th, to keep the pressure on first place Auckland City.
Having won only one game this season (against last-placed Waiheke United), they need to build on good performances over their last two games, having earned two draws against tough Easter opponents, drawing 1-1 against Auckland United, and 0-0 with Bay Olympic.
They won’t be happy with their current league position, especially after finishing last season’s campaign in 3rd, so they will need to get some results together to start meeting their expectations.
Both teams will be up for this game; there is a lot riding on it!
Silverware at stake
The derby between North Shore United and Takapuna will be played for the Quinnell/Richards Cup, a trophy contested when these two sides meet.
Other fixtures (with current league placings):
Waiheke United (12th) v Melville United (6th)
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke United, 3pm
Auckland United (3rd) v Hamilton Wanderers (5th)
Keith Hay Park, Auckland, 3pm
North Shore United (11th) v Takapuna (10th)
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, 3pm
Manukau United (7th) v Western Springs (8th)
Murdoch Park, Auckland, 3pm
How they stand