By Jonno Ross
The topsy turvy nature of this year’s Lotto NRFL first division makes it difficult to predict results on form.
With the exception of leaders West Coast Rangers and Tauranga City, the other 10 teams have struggled for consistency and their seasons have been marked by unexpected wins and losses.
This weekend’s schedule is no easier to work out — but that hasn’t stopped us looking at the games and trying to sort out the most intriguing games.
Here’s our preview of the round:
Metro (10th) v Albany United (9th)
Phyllis Street Reserve, Auckland
At the start of the season, Metro shaped as potential wooden-spooners but they have managed to turn their season around, scrounging points here and there.
Their 3-0 win last Friday against Waitemata might also prove to be a turning point.
Until then, their goals had come from an own goal and four from front man Jaydyn Englefield, one of those a penalty. It must have been a relief for Metro to add a second name to their scorers’ list when Honggyu Han got the final goal of the evening.
Metro seem to enjoy playing Friday night football under lights, registering all three of their wins at night.
Albany United will travel over the bridge seeking to kick clear of Metro on the table — both clubs are on 10 points and have identical win, draw and loss records.
Albany landed a decent scalp last weekend when they beat high-flying Onehunga Mangere United 2-1 on their own turf.
This game could really go either way but Metro seem to have the knack when it comes to Friday nights at home.
I think they will do it again. I’ll predict 3-1 to Metro.
East Coast Bays (5th) v Northern Rovers (8th)
Bay City Park, Auckland
After a stop–start early season spell, Bays have clearly come into form, registering emphatic 3-0 wins last weekend (against Ellerslie) and on Wednesday (against Fencibles United).
There’s no reason why they won’t fancy a third win, with a similar margin, against a Rovers side whose form is hard to predict.
The reasons for Bays’ good form is two-fold. Two clean sheets in a row, and five goals in two outings from 16-year-old striker Keegan Kelly.
Kelly scored a hat-trick in midweek and gives the side a decent strike force with the experienced Judd Baker, who has already scored five goals this season.
Rovers have had some tough opponents of late, losing to Manurewa last weekend by the game’s only goal, scored in added time.
They are the only team to have beaten league leaders West Coast Rovers (by 2-1 with a goal in the 98th minute), so it appears anything’s possible from this side.
Certainly, Rovers have been improving their defence of late — and they’ll need to be on their game to hold out Kelly and Baker.
The result could go either way but I’m picking a focus on strong defence — and tired legs from Bays after their midweek game — could provide a low-scoring affair.
Other fixtures (with current league placings):
Waitemata (12th) v West Coast Rangers (1st)
McLeod Park, Auckland, 3pm
Onehunga Mangere (4th) v Ellerslie (6th)
Mangere Domain, Auckland, 3pm
Fencibles United (11th) v Tauranga City (2nd)
Riverhills Park, Auckland, 3pm
Manurewa (3rd) v Mount Albert Ponsonby (7th)
Jellicoe Park, Auckland, 3pm
How they stand
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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