By Jonno Ross
Mid-table sides get the chance to jump up the Lotto NRFL first division table this weekend, while crucial points and bragging rights are at stake in the New North Road Derby.
Ellerslie and Manurewa meet early, with a Thursday fixture, to clear the long weekend for Chatham Cup action.
The remaining sides play on Saturday.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Metro (10th) v Mount Albert Ponsonby (9th)
Phyllis Street Reserve, Auckland
We have the new North Road Derby under the lights at Phyllis Street this Friday.
With both teams badly out of form, there’s little doubt they will both be up for this one as both clubs hate to lose or even share the spoils.
Metro lost their first home Friday night game last week against Albany United 5-3, but the positives they can take from that loss (and their previous game) is that they are finally adding new names to their goal scorers list.
They will hope they are finally finding their rhythm and clicking as a team, and what better time to do it than now.
When they played their neighbours in the opening round of the season, they lost 2-0.
Metro currently sit two points behind their rivals and will be hungry for the win so they can swap positions in the league.
Mount Albert Ponsonby have had an uncharacteristic first round of their campaign.
Lack of consistency in performances and game management have caused their demise thus far.
Being able to score goals hasn’t been the issue, but missed chances and silly mistakes are the reason they are where they are in the league at the halfway mark.
They will view this game as a must-win, and hope that if they do get the victory, it will be the turning point of the season.
Three points will take Mount Albert anywhere between 9th and 4th depending on other results, but a loss could see them drop down a place and into a relegation battle.
It’s all to play for in this one, added pressure for both teams with this one being the local derby. However, I’m going to say 2-1 to MAP.
Onehunga Mangere (4th) v Tauranga City (2nd)
Mangere Domain, Auckland
Onehunga Mangere come into this game on the back of two draws and are winless since beating Mount Albert Ponsonby 2-1 in round six.
Despite the tailing off of their early-season form, they find themselves fourth in the league, four points off third-placed Manurewa.
Osman Rastagar has refound his early-season form finding the net four times in his last two games, including a hat-trick, which has taken him up to second in the Golden Boot race with seven goals to his name.
The ‘Mountain Men’ will be eager for Rastagar to continue hitting his straps, especially when it comes to playing Tauranga City this weekend, to whom they lost 2-1 in the opening game of the season.
A win for Onehunga Mangere would see them remain in fourth place, however a loss, and depending on other results from teams below them, could see them drop as far as 9th in the league.
Tauranga City returned to winning ways last week against Fencibles United, after surviving a scare when 1-0 down at half time.
However, 46th-minute substitute Mikhail Bredeveldt proved to be the difference, scoring two goals to help the boys from the Mount get the three points with a 4-2 victory.
Tauranga City were sitting so comfortably in second but after dropping five points in rounds eight and ten (drawing 0-0 at home to Waitemata, and then losing 2-0 to league leaders West Coast Rangers) the margin for error has decreased.
Instead of being six points clear of third, they find themselves only one point in front, so a win is crucial this week, and they will be cheering on Ellerslie on Thursday night, who are playing at home to Manurewa.
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Ellerslie (5th) v Manurewa (3rd)
Michaels Ave Reserve, 7pm
Waitemata (12th) v East Coast Bays (6th)
McLeod Park, Auckland, 3pm
West Coast Rangers (1st) v Fencibles United (11th)
Fred Taylor Park, Auckland, 3pm
Albany United (8th) v Northern Rovers (7th)
Rosedale Park, Auckland
Postponed in line with COVID-19 protocols
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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