By Jonno Ross
Ngaruawahia United will look to defend their lead at the top of the Lotto NRFL second division when they head to Franklin United’s Tuakau ground, where the home side won a Chatham Cup tie in midweek.
There’s a fair chance that this weekend’s results will sort the division into two groups — one that has realistic ambitions of taking the title, another that has fears of ending up with the wooden spoon.
In midweek, four teams from the division played rescheduled games.
Hibiscus Coast beat Beachlands Maraetai 3-1 under lights at Papakura City’s McLennan Park.
In a Chatham Cup tie, Franklin United beat Oratia United 3-0.
Here’s our preview of the round:
West Auckland (5th) v Hibiscus Coast (4th)
Brains Park 1, Auckland
West Auckland’s three-match unbeaten run came to an end last week when they went down 2-0 away at second-placed Bucklands Beach.
Their target this season is to earn back-to-back promotions, to achieve the safety of the first division with the anticipated dismantling of the second division at the end of the season.
Such uncertainty puts pressure on all the clubs in this division and this game is a classic ‘must win’ for both sides if they want to stay in the promotion chase.
Coach Scott Mackay will no doubt want to remedy his side’s tendency to concede goals (almost two a game on average) and he’ll need to be wary about Hibiscus Coast who found their goalscoring boots in midweek.
Coast beat Beachlands Maraetai 3-1 with all three goals coming from players newly-recruited to the side this season.
That bodes well for a side that looked overly dependent in early games on the experienced Adam Dickinson.
A two-week pause in their fixture schedule seemed to derail their early season form and before their win on Wednesday, they had lost in successive games to Bucklands Beach, Albany United (Chatham Cup) and Claudelands Rovers.
This trip to West Auckland will show whether Coast have rediscovered their early form, providing they have had sufficient recovery time.
The winner stays with the leading pack — the loser spends Saturday night in mid-table.
The draw suits neither side.
Other fixtures (with current league placings):
Bucklands Beach (2nd) v Northland (6th)
Lloyd Elsmore Park, Auckland, 3pm
Franklin United (8th) v Ngaruawahia United (1st)
Dr John Lightbody Reserve, Tuakau, 3pm
Cambridge (9th) v Oratia United (10th)
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm
Claudelands Rovers (3rd) v Beachlands Maraetai (7th)
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 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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