Last day of Northern League provides chance for teams to throw caution to the wind

posted in: News

By Jack Sharp

School’s almost out! As the dozen Northern League clubs go into their final round of games, don’t be surprised if there are some high-scoring games and even some surprise results.

All the important stuff has been decided — the title, the four qualification spots for the National League and the two clubs doomed to relegation.

So, there’s every chance coaches will opt to rotate their squads either to protect those carrying knocks and strains (for National League) or to introduce young talent with a view to next season.

Here’s our preview of the round:

Saturday

Games to be played on Saturday September 3, 2022

Hamilton Wanderers (5th) v Melville United (4th)
Porritt Stadium Hamilton, 3pm

There’s no such thing as a meaningless game between these Waikato rivals.

Last week’s results ensured Melville earned National League status at the expense of Wanderers so there’s nothing to play for, in terms of league position.

But the Waikato derbies always fire up players and supporters, and neither of these sides will want to forsake bragging rights when they meet at Wanderers’ Porritt Stadium.

Nice gesture by Wanderers last weekend …

Even if both coaches decide to give game time to fringe players, they’ll play with intensity and the chance to prove themselves in a highly-charged atmosphere.

The team sheet for Melville will reveal whether leading scorer Oliver Colloty is available, or already heading to Tahiti to join the New Zealand team at the OFC U-19 Championship which starts next Thursday.

Bold prediction: 3-3.

The game will be live streamed by NZ Football’s YouTube channel:

Auckland United (3rd) v Auckland City (1st)
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 3pm

Both these sides are already preparing for National League campaigns and there’s little point in risking injury to key players.

Auckland City rotated their squad in midweek, when they beat Western Springs 5-3, to rest key players such as skipper Cam Howieson, Dylan Manickum and Gerard Garriga.

Such is the depth of their squad, you can be sure City’s line-up will remain strong, especially as this game provides the chance to complete the Northern League season undefeated.

A win would mean the Navy Blues would finish with 64 points from a possible 66 — an amazing record.

Auckland United have the competition’s second-best goalscoring record, after City, with 58 goals from their 21 outings.

And they’ve shared them around with Josh Redfearn (13), Nic Zambrano (11), Matt Conroy (7) and Michael den Heijeer (5) leading the way.

United might learn from Western Springs’ approach in midweek — they got off to a sloppy start, allowing City to build an early lead, but then found opportunities as both teams threw caution to the wind.

If United can tie down Auckland City early, anything’s possible.

I’m tipping City to extend their unbeaten league and cup run to 32 games with this match — but only just.

Other fixtures (with current league placings)

Games to be played on Saturday September 3, 2022

North Shore United (12th) v Eastern Suburbs (9th)
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm

Western Springs (6th) v Bay Olympic (8th)
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 3pm

Birkenhead United (2nd) v Manukau United (7th)
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 3pm

Waiheke United (11th) v Takapuna (10th)
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke, 3pm

How they stand

Last round of games

Click here for match report of midweek game between Western Springs and Auckland City >>>>

Click here to read our round-up of results from last weekend >>>>

Thanks

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