The National League aspirations of Birkenhead United and Hamilton Wanderers go on the line when the sides meet under lights on Tuesday (August 23) at Shepherds Park.
With three rounds to go, both are chasing top four spots in the Northern League to qualify for the 10-team National League which starts in October.
The race for qualification could well go to the last game, when Melville United and Hamilton Wanderers meet in their Waikato derby on Saturday September 3.
Here’s how the qualification chances look:
Champions Auckland City and current second-placed club Auckland United have both ensured they’ll be in the National League.
That leaves three clubs scrapping over the two remaining places.
Birkenhead United are as good as qualified because even if they lost their remaining games, it would still require Melville and Wanderers to win twice and then draw their derby … even then, Wanderers would need to improve their goal difference (compared to Birkenhead) by seven goals.
Confused? Well, Birkenhead can save everyone reaching for their pocket calculators by taking a point or better in Tuesday’s game against Wanderers.
Do that, and United will qualify and the last spot is down to the two Hamilton clubs.
If Birkenhead fluff their lines against Wanderers, they get two more chances to claim a point or better, when they meet Waiheke United (away) and Manukau United (home).
If Wanderers are going to qualify for the National League, they’re certainly doing it the hard way.
They need to beat Birkenhead to really put the blowtorch on Melville’s hopes of qualification. Then, they host Manukau United and Melville in a climactic finish to their season.
Otherwise, Wanderers are relying on Melville dropping points in their remaining games against Eastern Suburbs (away) on Wednesday August 24, or against North Shore United (home).
Main photo: Birkenhead United … they can make 100% sure of qualification with a draw or better against Wanderers. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Watch it live
For those with Facebook accounts, Bev’s Broadcasting will be streaming the match live at the following link: