By Jack Sharp
Round 20 of the Northern League is stretched over five days to accommodate Chatham Cup commitments but there are some key games in the round.
Birkenhead United, Hamiton Wanderers and Melville United all need wins to confirm spots in the National League.
Other sides with nothing to play for will be lining up with players, formations and tactics with next season in mind.
Here’s our preview of the round:
Manukau United (7th) v Takapuna (10th)
Walter Massey Park, Manukau, 3pm
Both these teams started their seasons reasonably well and on May 14, they met at Takapuna’s Taharoto Park where Manukau won a thrilling game 3-2, thanks to a three-goal burst in a five-minute second-half spell.
Since then, these sides have struggled.
Manukau have won only four of their 12 games since and when they have a bad day, it turns into goals for their opponents.
In five of their losses since May, Manukau have conceded four goals or more.
Manukau have not won for six weeks, losing three games and drawing once in that spell, so they will no doubt target Saturday’s match against Takapuna as a chance to turns things around.
After all, Takapuna have fared even worse since the reverse fixture in May.
Since then, they have won once in 11 outings — a 2-1 win against Bay Olympic that eased any fears of being dragged into a relegation battle.
If they had not banked a few points with early season wins, Takapuna may well have been looking at a return to Lotto NRFL first division football next year.
Takapuna’s problem this year has been finding an out-and-out goalscorer, someone who can score every week.
In seven of their last 11 games, they have failed to find the net at all.
When they have scored, they’ve shared the goals around — Sam Robertson is their leading scorer with four for the season, ahead of Tommy Miller with three.
So, with nothing at stake on Saturday, this game delivers an opportunity for two teams to throw caution to the South Auckland breeze, and try a few plays with an eye on next season.
Like their May meeting, this could have a few goals — why not 3-2 again? It could go either way.
Other fixtures (with current league placings)
Games to be played on Saturday August 20, 2022
Bay Olympic (8th) v Waiheke United (11th)
Olympic Park, New Lynn, 3pm
North Shore United (12th) v Auckland United (3rd)
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm
Game to be played on Tuesday August 23, 2022
Birkenhead United (2nd) v Hamilton Wanderers (5th)
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 7.30pm
Game to be played on Wednesday August 24, 2022
Eastern Suburbs (9th) v Melville United (4th)
Ngahue Reserve, Stonefields, Auckland, 7pm
How they stand
Last weekend’s games
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