By Jonno Ross
A mid-season revival has boosted Oratia United’s hopes of escaping the bottom two spots in the Lotto NRFL second division.
Though the ‘Tia still prop up the table, recent results have hinted at better things and it would be a huge achievement for the side to climb into mid-table. This weekend, they get another chance to make the Great Escape possible.
Here’s our preview of the round:
Oratia United (10th) v West Auckland (4th)
Parrs Park, Auckland
Oratia United couldn’t have asked for a worse start to their season.
They looked certainties to be relegated after losing seven games in a row, especially after the defection of their main striker, Mark Withers, to league leaders Ngaruawahia United.
But things took a turn for the better in round eight, when they caused the upset of the season so far, beating then-second placed Bucklands Beach in a 2-0 win.
They lost the following week to Hibiscus Coast 3-2 in the 83rd minute, but last week against Claudelands Rovers, they picked up their second win of the season winning 2-1 thanks to Sean Atherton’s first goal of the season with a dramatic 89th-minute winner.
If Oratia keep up this newly-found form, they will be able to pull themselves out of the relegation zone, as they are only six points behind 8th-placed Rovers.
A win would take United off the foot of the table and into 9th, as Bucklands Beach are expected to beat Beachlands Maraetai.
After losing 3-1 to Hibiscus Coast in round six, West Auckland have gone four games without defeat, winning their following three games, and drawing with Ngaruawahia 0-0 last weekend.
Over those four games, West Auckland have scored 10 and conceded just three, but haven’t conceded in their last two outings.
They now sit 4th on the league ladder, only three points off first, and will look at this game as a big opportunity to keep their momentum going to make it five without defeat.
With the three teams above them all playing against teams below them in the league, West Auckland can’t afford to drop points, as the teams above them are expected to win this weekend.
Last time out against Oratia United, they came away with a 4-3 win, in a ‘tit-for-tat’ kind of game, with five goals being scored in the opening 28 minutes making it 3-2 to Oratia, before the coaches’ son Stuart Mackay scored two goals without reply to seal his side’s victory.
A win for West Auckland could take them top, though a loss could see the gap between them and Franklin United closed to just two points instead of five.
Will we have another goal frenzy, or will the teams try and secure themselves at the back? We will find out!
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Ngaruawahia United (1st) v Northland (6th)
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, 3pm
Franklin United (5th) v Hibiscus Coast (2nd)
Bledisloe Park, Pukekohe, 3pm
Cambridge (7th) v Claudelands Rovers (8th)
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm
Beachlands Maraetai (9th) v Bucklands Beach (3rd)
Te Puru Park, Auckland, 3pm
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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