By Jonno Ross
Momentum plays a big part in football and Lotto NRFL first division title challengers Manurewa go into Matariki weekend looking to extend their unbeaten run to seven games.
While West Coast Rangers have a six-point lead in the competition, their nearest challengers all have fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table.
With no room for slip-ups, round 13 is bound to deliver some tense and exciting football with one game on Friday and the rest of the schedule on Saturday.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Fencibles (11th) v Northern Rovers (4th)
Riverhills Park, Auckland
It has been a tough return to the first division so far for Fencibles.
The last five games of the first round provided their worst run of form all season, conceding 15 goals and only getting on the scoresheet four times.
They will want to leave round one of the competition in the past, and they kick-started the second round with a long-awaited victory at Onehunga Mangere United, where they won 2-1 thanks to Cheauxyan Maukau’s winner in the 90th minute. Not a bad time to score your first goal of the season!
Fencibles may be the more confident of the two sides heading into this game, having faced Northern Rovers twice already this season, and winning both times, with a 4-1 win in the league, and a 3-0 win in the second round of the Chatham Cup.
‘Fencies’ will be hungry to get the treble over Rovers, as a win would take them anywhere between 11th and 8th position, whereas a loss could see them drop to the foot of the table.
Despite facing their ‘bogey’ team this season, Northern Rovers are sitting in handy in 4th place.
They are only six points off 2nd-placed Manurewa, so if they are in the hunt for promotion, they can’t afford to drop any more points — every game should be looked at as a ‘must win’.
Their self-belief could be built on the knowledge they have beaten every team in the top six except Manurewa.
Rovers plainly need to find some consistency when playing teams in the lower half of the table.
It’s a big game for both clubs, and neither can afford to lose, so I’m expecting a cagey game.
Bold prediction: This one’s looking like a draw — Fencibles’ first of the season.
Manurewa (2nd) v Waitemata (12th)
Jellicoe Park 1, Auckland
Manurewa’s hot streak continues.
They opened the second round with another win, to make it six games undefeated, their latest victims being Albany United.
The win against Albany had significance, as it showed that their rough start to the season was a thing of the past,
Early in the season, they lost 4-0 to Albany. In their latest game, they dealt to them 5-1.
This Rewa side is dangerous and coach Rhys Ruka certainly has them ticking all the right boxes for a promotion finish.
Manurewa are now five points ahead of third-placed Tauranga City, so the pressure is on the South Auckland team to get the three points this weekend, as a loss would put added pressure on next week’s game against the boys from the Mount.
Waitemata finally got the monkey off their back last time out against Ellerslie, with a 3-0 victory.
That result was potentially the most important of their season, as a loss would have put them five points away from the safety, and four points behind Fencibles, rooted to the foot of the table.
However, thanks to that win against Ellerslie, only two points separate them between bottom of the table and eighth place, so a win this weekend just might pull them out of the relegation zone.
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Metro (10th) v Onehunga Mangere (5th)
Phyllis Street Reserve, Auckland, 7.30pm
Ellerslie (8th) v Mount Albert Ponsonby (7th)
Michaels Ave Reserve, Auckland, 3pm
East Coast Bays (6th) v West Coast Rangers (1st)
Bay City Park, Auckland, 3pm
Tauranga City (3rd) v Albany United (9th)
Links Ave Reserve, Tauranga, 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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