By Jonno Ross
Matariki Weekend provides fixtures on Friday and Saturday, including a couple of stand-out games that could play a big part in deciding end-of-season rankings in the Northern League.
With the new public holiday in place, spectators have Friday fixtures in Auckland and Hamilton to choose from, while Saturday provides a couple of games with much at stake.
Here’s our pick of the games for the neutral spectator this weekend:
Eastern Suburbs (10th) v Waiheke United (11th)
Madills Farm, Auckland
This could be THE season-defining game for both these teams.
Eastern Suburbs currently sit six points above Waiheke, and a win would extend that to a comfort-providing nine-point buffer from the relegation zone.
Suburbs will go into this game the more confident of the two teams, after beating this week’s opponents in the reverse fixture in a come-from-behind 3-1 win, where all three goals were scored in the last third of the game.
Even though it is still relatively early in the season, a win for Suburbs could significantly firm up their claims for a place in the Northern League for the 2023 season.
Waiheke United just can’t seem to get over the line when it comes to winning a game.
Winless in 13 league games, with five draws and eight defeats, they really need to find an extra gear to go to, to pick up more points to try and stay in the top flight — and that needs to start right now.
Failing to defeat Eastern Suburbs this weekend would most likely seal their fate and consign them to the relegation zone, with avoiding the wooden spoon as their only remaining challenge.
This is the biggest game of the season so far for both teams, and I can see them both putting everything on the line to win.
Which team will want it most? I predict the quality of football goes out the window in this game, and while it might be scrappy, it’ll be an enthralling, exciting match to watch.
Bold prediction: I may as well say it every week until it happens … I’m tipping Waiheke for the win!
Watch the game live via NZ Football’s YouTube channel:
Auckland City (1st) v Hamilton Wanderers (5th)
Kiwitea Street, Auckland
Auckland City still refuse to lose.
Sixteen goals scored in their last three games, and only two conceded in their last 10.
I don’t really need to say much more; everyone gets it — they are an absolute powerhouse this season.
There is a bit of a twist to this week’s game though — in the reverse fixture at Hamilton’s Porritt Stadium, City came the closest to losing as they have all season, and they have Joseph Lee to thank for that, when he scored in the 87th minute to rescue a 1-1 draw.
That was only the third game of the season though. By then, City hadn’t fully hit their stride yet…
Since then, they have scored an average of four goals a game, and haven’t even looked like drawing another game, let alone losing one. I wonder if they will go the whole season undefeated?
Hamilton Wanderers head into this game in 4th place, having overtaken Bay Olympic with wins against Suburbs and Manukau United, both by 2-0 scorelines, in their latest outings.
Wanderers have a double incentive this weekend. First, they will want to stay in the top four. Second, they will want to prove to themselves, the rest of the league, and everyone who follows the Northern League, that they have it in their locker to take Auckland City all the way and be the first ones to take three points off them.
Plenty to play for in this game and motivation won’t be hard to find,
City won’t easily surrender their undefeated streak, and Wanderers want a top-four finish and qualification for the National League.
This should be a cracker at Kiwitea Street!
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Melville United (3rd) v Takapuna (9th)
Gower Park, Hamilton, 3pm
Western Springs (7th) v Auckland United (4th)
Crum Park 2, Auckland, 3:15pm
Manukau United (8th) v North Shore United (12th)
Walter Massey Park 1, Auckland, 3pm
Birkenhead United (2nd) v Bay Olympic (6th)
Shepherds Park, Auckland, 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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