By Jonno Ross
Unbeaten Ngaruawahia United have slipped five points clear while there’s a mad dash emerging in the race to fill at least the second promotion spot in the Lotto NRFL second division.
The three clubs chasing Ngaruawahia — Bucklands Beach, West Auckland and Hibiscus Coast — all go into fixtures as favourites, based on league position, but the pressure to win may tell.
Meanwhile, the league leaders should have a routine win when they play bottom-placed Oratia United. But you never know …
Here’s our preview of the round:
Oratia United (10th) v Ngaruawahia United (1st)
Parrs Park, Auckland
It hasn’t been the best of seasons so far for Oratia United.
Sitting bottom of the league with only two wins to their name, they will be eager to start picking up positive results and work their way off the bottom.
It doesn’t get any easier for them this weekend though. They come up against Ngaruawahia United, who are the only team in the league yet to lose a game.
At least, Oratia come into this game knowing they are capable of the win, because one of their two wins this season was against second-placed Bucklands Beach, winning 2-0, showing they can deliver if they put it all together.
A win for Oratia would most likely lift them off the bottom and into ninth, as Beachlands Maraetai are expected to lose against Hibiscus Coast.
Being newly promoted to Division Two, Ngaruawahia United have exceeded most people’s expectations, sitting on top of the league by five points, and undefeated after 12 games.
Confidence in the camp will be soaring, and the team will be hungry for promotion the first division.
They’ll badly want to hang onto their undefeated streak.
Former Oratia striker Mark Withers will no doubt be keen to score against his old club, and to get himself back on a scoring run, having only scored once in his last four outings — somewhat of a goal drought for a player like him!
A win for Ngaruawahia would most likely keep them five points ahead at the top, as the three teams below them all sit on 23 points; a loss would close the gap to just two points.
A win for Oratia would be the biggest upset of the league, but I can’t see that happening — I predict a 3-0 win to the away side, and a Mark Withers double to rub salt into Oratia’s wound.
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Cambridge (8th) v Northland (6th)
John Kerkhof Park, 3pm
Bucklands Beach (2nd) v Claudelands Rovers (7th)
Lloyd Elsmore Park, 3pm
Franklin United (5th) v West Auckland (3rd)
Drury Sports Complex, 3pm
Hibiscus Coast (4th) v Beachlands Maraetai (9th)
Stanmore Bay Park, Whangaparaoa, 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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