By Jonno Ross
The two best sides so far in the Lotto NRFL second division go head-to-head this weekend, in a match that could have a huge bearing on who takes out the title.
Unbeaten Ngaruawahia United are second, a point behind league leaders Bucklands Beach.
It’s our pick of the round and if neutrals are looking for a tense match with plenty at stake, head to Lloyd Elsmore Park.
Here’s our preview of the round:
Bucklands Beach (1st) v Ngaruawahia United (2nd)
Lloyd Elsmore Park, Auckland
Bucklands Beach have bounced back in style since their only defeat of the season which came against Claudelands Rovers in round four, where they lost 2-1 in the 96th minute.
Since then, they have won back-to-back league games, beating West Auckland 2-0 and earning their first clean sheet of the season. The following week, they backed up with a comfortable 3-0 win against Northland.
Sander Waterland is on fire, scoring five goals in his last three appearances, and is now the joint leader in the division’s Golden Boot race with seven goals for the season. Level with him in the Golden Boot race is teammate Sean Latimer.
This weekend’s game against Ngaruawahia United will be Bucklands’ biggest test of their season to date.
A win would see them go four points clear of their promotion rivals, but a loss could see them switch places and go down to second.
Ngaruawahia are the only team left in the league yet to lose a game this season.
In the two games they have drawn, they were 1-0 down and came back to draw 2-2 in both of them. That indicates a team that doesn’t easily accept defeat — they’ll keep going till the final whistle.
Recent signing from Oratia United, striker Mark Withers, has proved to be a worthy addition, scoring two goals on his debut against Cambridge in a 2-1 victory.
He’s the third part of the Golden Boot triangle, also on seven goals with this week’s opponents Waterland and Latimer.
This makes for an interesting game, with 21 goals between three players on the same pitch, and top position in the league up for grabs.
We’ll be looking for two outcomes — which team wins, and who’s scored the goals. This has the makings of a classic match, a game that could define the season for both clubs..
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Cambridge (9th) v Beachlands Maraetai (7th)
John Kerkhof Park 1, 3pm
Franklin United (6th) v Oratia United (10th)
Stadium Field, Pukekohe, 3pm
Hibiscus Coast (3rd) v Northland (8th)
Stanmore Bay Park, Whangaparaoa, 3pm
Claudelands Rovers (4th) v West Auckland (5th)
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 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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