By Jonno Ross
If you want goals this weekend, I’m picking the Northern League game to watch will be the mid-table battle between Melville United and Western Springs.
The Waikato side is capable of cutting loose on their home turf while Springs have shown a tendency for open play that makes for goalscoring opportunities at both ends.
But if you’re looking for tension and an early season showdown, the place to be at 3pm on Saturday is Kiwitea St, Sandringham.
The league’s top two teams go head-to-head in what promises to be a cracker.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Melville United (5th) v Western Springs (7th)
Gower Park, Hamilton
Melville United showed they are useful all over the park when they had six different players on the scoresheet in last weekend’s convincing 6-1 win against bottom-of-the-league Waiheke United.
And with Bay Olympic going down to Auckland City last time out, Melville have closed the gap between them and Bay to just one league point.
So if they can get the three points against Springs, and Bay drop more points, the Waikato side could join the league’s top four.
Striker Oliver Colloty has only failed to score in two of Melville’s six games so far and he’ll no doubt want to hit the net again to stay in the race for the Golden Boot.
Springs picked up their first clean sheet of the season last week against Manukau United and coach Chris Zoricich will want consistency not only in their defence but with their results.
Having failed to win two games in a row so far this season, they will look at this game as the perfect opportunity to do so.
A victory against Melville would see Springs overtake them on the table and, depending on other results, they could go from 7th to 4th with a victory.
Auckland City (1st) v Birkenhead United (2nd)
Kiwitea Street, Auckland
It is only round seven of the competition but this game has to be pegged as potentially the game of the season, not only for the neutral but for supporters of both sides.
Auckland City are the only undefeated team left in the league, having dropped only two points all season (their draw with Hamilton Wanderers in round three).
Ace goalscorer Angus Kilkolly is again showing the rest of the league what a powerhouse he is, averaging a goal a game and leading the Golden Boot chart with six goals.
City will see this game as a huge opportunity as victory will put them at least three points clear at the top and, depending on other results, they could go clear by as much as four points.
Birkenhead United have bounced back nicely from their surprise defeat to Melville, having won two games on the trot. What’s more, they have won comfortably in both games, beating Western Springs 5-2 and Eastern Suburbs 4-0.
Cameron Mackenzie has found the perfect time to hit form, scoring four goals in two games including a hat-trick last weekend.
If Birkenhead really want to show that they can go toe to toe with Auckland City, then this is their chance.
I don’t know who the pressure is on more, City or Birko? So much riding on this game for both teams, and without a doubt, this will be a hotly contested game.
I’m just sorry I can’t get to this game. To neutrals wanting to know how good Northern League can be, miss this at your peril.
Other fixtures (with current league placings):
Takapuna (8th) v Bay Olympic (4th)
Taharoto Park, Auckland, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers (6th) v North Shore United (11th)
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 3pm
Eastern Suburbs (10th) v Manukau United (9th)
Madills Farm, Auckland, 3pm
Waiheke United (12th) v Auckland United (3rd)
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke United, 3pm
How they stand
Last weekend’s games
Friends of Football writer Jonno Ross is a former New Zealand U-20 goalkeeper who is the team manager for Mount Albert Ponsonby. He supports the All Whites, the Football Ferns, the Wellington Phoenix and Arsenal.
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