By Jonno Ross
Early season games can throw up a few unexpected results and it’s too soon to know for sure which sides will challenge for promotion this year.
But we should start to get some strong clues this weekend as the Lotto NRFL second division goes into its second round of fixtures.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Claudelands Rovers (5th) v Cambridge (10th)
Galloway Park, Hamilton
Round two and already we have the prospect of a Waikato derby where the two neighbours will vie for bragging rights as well as three league points.
Claudelands Rovers got off the mark last weekend with a scrappy 3-2 victory over Oratia to start their campaign.
They proved their fighting spirit, having come from behind twice to score the winner and hold on until the final whistle to seal the points.
All the same, Claudelands were lucky to have 11 men on the field after the 11th minute, when right-back Daniel Finlay could have seen a straight red for a questionable tackle. Claudelands will need to keep their discipline in the heat of a derby if they are to win this match.
Cambridge will be keen to show the rest of the league that their 5-1 drubbing last weekend was not a reflection of the side’s true ability, or a sign of where they will finish in the league.
They will want to start better this week, after conceding two goals in the first 10 minutes against Hibiscus Coast last weekend.
Perhaps you could put it down to rustiness after not playing a competitive game since last year.
They will get no better chance to put things right than in a derby against traditional rivals.
Other fixtures (with current league placings):
Northland (2nd) v Ngaruawahia United (3rd)
Trigg Arena, Whangarei, 3pm
Hibiscus Coast (1st) v Franklin United (7th)
Stanmore Bay Park, Whangaparoa, 3pm
West Auckland (8th) v Oratia United (6th)
Brains Park, Auckland, 3pm
Bucklands Beach (4th) v Beachlands Maraetai (9th)
Lloyd Elsmore Park, Auckland, 3pm
How they stand