By Jonno Ross
Manurewa look to extend their unbeaten run to nine games this weekend in a match that could firm up their chances of winning promotion from the Lotto NRFL first division.
Meanwhile, Tauranga City’s hopes of staying in the promotion race will be helped if they can take the points at Metro’s Phyllis St, a venue where the home side have been at their best this season.
Here’s our preview of the round, with our recommendations for the neutral spectator:
Manurewa (2nd) v Fencibles United (9th)
Jellicoe Park 1, Auckland
Since losing just their third game of the season in round six against league leaders West Coast Rangers, Manurewa have really hit the ground running, and gone on a relentless eight-game unbeaten streak, winning seven and drawing just twice.
It’s that sort of form that deserves promotion, especially in this league where teams have struggled to build a consistent run of consecutive good results.
In this run, they have scored an impressive 25 goals, and conceded just seven.
Rewa have 12 players on the scoresheet so far this season, and will hope that former All White Monty Patterson and midfield playmaker Nico Bobadilla can continue their fine form, with 15 goals between them — Patterson with 8, and Bobadilla on 7.
Last time out against Fencibles, Manurewa came away with a 4-0 win, and will hope to repeat the trick on Saturday as a win would bring them potentially two points off the top, and will hope that West Coast Rangers drop points against Mount Albert Ponsonby.
A loss would see them stay in second, but if third-placed Tauranga beat Metro, the gap will be closed to two points.
Fencibles have somewhat turned their season around of late, after beating Albany United 2-1 last weekend to make it four games in a row without defeat.
Before this run of form, Fencibles were on a downward slope, having lost six games in a row, and looking like they were one of the favourites to be in the league’s bottom two.
Skipper Sione Fa’apoi has taken matters into his own hands in Fencibles’ recent form, scoring five goals in two games, a hat-trick against Northern Rovers, and a double last week to secure the East Auckland side’s win.
A win for Fencibles would take them as high as 5th, though a loss could see them drop the place to 10th.
I predict a draw in this one, 1-1.
Metro (8th) v Tauranga City (3rd)
Phyllis Street Reserve, Auckland
Metro are another in the division clogging up the middle of the table (but where is the middle?).
They are now in 8th place, level on points with Mount Albert Ponsonby and Onehunga Mangere but separated by a negative goal difference.
In the previous round against Tauranga City, Metro came away from the Mount with a 0-0 draw – their 4th point of the season at the time, and a surprise result given Tauranga were expected to win, especially after their strong start to the season.
Jaydyn Englefield has been Metro’s key man this season, and he’s in top form, scoring 16 goals in 14 games (league and cup), and three goals in two games. Last week he scored the winner in the 89th minute at Northern Rovers.
Tauranga City might feel hard done by last weekend, when their 1-0 lead was cancelled out in the 94th minute by Manurewa.
A win would have put them three points behind Rewa, but now they will need Rewa to slip up at least twice for City to take over second position.
That draw could end up being a decisive factor come the end of the season when the top two clubs in the league are promoted.
Since Tauranga lost to West Coast Rangers, it seemed like the wheels were starting to fall off, as they lost in the following weeks to Onehunga Mangere, East Coast Bays (in the Cup), and then to Northern Rovers.
That’s six points dropped that could prove costly.
City will need to get back to the form that saw them challenging for the title, and will hope to get maximum points from their remaining eight games.
I can’t see any other winner in this fixture other than Tauranga City; they have more on the line than Metro.
I’m going to say 3-0 to the away side.
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Ellerslie (10th) v Northern Rovers (4th)
Michaels Ave Reserve, Auckland, 3pm
Waitemata (12th) v Onehunga Mangere (7th)
McLeod Park, Auckland, 3pm
Mount Albert Ponsonby (6th) v West Coast Rangers (1st)
Anderson Park, Auckland, 3pm
East Coast Bays (5th) v Albany United (11th)
Bay City 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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