By Jonno Ross
With the exception of runaway leaders West Coast Rangers, this year’s Lotto NRFL first division has produced highly competitive matches and reversals of form.
It’s made for some entertaining fixtures and we’re picking this weekend will produce more of those.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Waitemata (12th) v Ellerslie (6th)
McLeod Park, Auckland
It’s been a tough season for Waitemata this year, and more so in recent times.
Having picked up only two points in their past seven games, they find themselves at the bottom of the league with just 8 points.
But they are no easy rollovers, as demonstrated by their thriller against East Coast Bays last week, where they took the lead in the 69th minute, only to be heartbroken when Bays scored the equaliser in the 92nd minute, and then the winner in the 96th. For Bays, it was sweet revenge after losing the reverse fixture 4-3.
Despite their position in the league, Waitemata can’t rule themselves out of the competition yet, as only six points separate them from sixth position in the league, and as we have seen all season, anyone can beat anybody when on game day.
After their strong start to the season, Ellerslie find themselves in a bit of a rut, and come Saturday, it will have been over a month since their last win in the league when they beat Fencibles 4-2 (May 7).
Every game since (and this is a stat they won’t like), they have conceded three goals in every game, and picked up only one point, from a 3-3 draw with Onehunga Mangere.
As Ellerslie have demonstrated throughout the season, they run hot or cold … there’s no in-between.
When they win, they win big — of their four wins this season, they have scored 14 goals and conceded only 5.
Of their five losses, they have conceded 12, and scored none.
See what I mean by hot and cold?
The only place they are lukewarm is on the league table, where they simmer in mid-table.
A win for Ellerslie could move them ahead of East Coast Bays who sit one place above them; a loss could see them drop as far as 10th.
A win for Waitemata could see them switch places with Fencibles, depending on their results with Onehunga Mangere.
With both teams badly out of form and struggling to score goals, I can only see one result here. 1-1 draw.
Albany United (8th) v Manurewa (2nd)
Rosedale Park, Auckland
Albany United are on the best run of form they have been in all season.
Since being at the bottom of the league in round seven with only three points to their name, they have lifted themselves to eighth place, and their recent run of five undefeated games is the reason.
Their form might be a little rusty coming into this weekend’s game however because come Saturday, they won’t have played a game in two weeks. They had to postpone their round 11 fixture against Northern Rovers, and their Chatham Cup fixture against Auckland City on Monday, due to COVID-19 issues.
Let’s hope everyone is fit, rested and ready to go, and they have no more disruptions to their season.
Manurewa continued their fine form last weekend, beating Ellerslie 3-0 and moving into second in the league, and into a promotion spot for the first time this season.
The win against Ellerslie means Rewa have gone five games unbeaten in the league, and have shot up the table after picking up 13 points from a possible 15.
There might be a few sore legs in the camp this week, after the boys from South Auckland took second-placed Northern League giants Birkenhead all the way to 120 minutes in their Chatham Cup game on Monday, where they lost 2-1 with the winner being scored in the 114th minute.
Manurewa will know they have to keep their good form going this weekend, as the teams below them will be rooting for Albany to steal points off them.
Rewa will also hope that Northern Rovers do them a favour by beating Tauranga City, so that if Rewa do pick up the points, they will go five points clear of third.
Keep your calculator handy when the results start coming in this Saturday!
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Metro (9th) v West Coast Rangers (1st)
Phyllis Street Reserve, Auckland, 7.30pm
Northern Rovers (7th) v Tauranga City (3rd)
McFetridge Park, Auckland, 3pm
Onehunga Mangere (4th) v Fencibles United (11th)
Mangere domain, Auckland, 3pm
Mount Albert Ponsonby (10th) v East Coast Bays (5th)
Anderson Park, Auckland, 3pm
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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