By Jack Sharp
Last year, West Auckland missed promotion by the barest of margins to what’s now called the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.
It’s already clear the club wants to make amends this season and they are the first-week leaders after a 4-0 win against neighbours Oratia United.
They host Northland this weekend and get the ideal opportunity to consolidate their encouraging start to the campaign.
READ MORE: Last weekend’s results and scorers >>>>
Here’s how the weekend’s games shape up …
Game of the week
Albany United and Beachlands Maraetai meet at Te Puru Park after both registered season-opening wins.
Albany won 3-0 against Waitemata, relegated from last season’s Lotto NRFL first division, thanks to a Matthew Harland double and a goal 10 minutes into stoppage time from Martias Miranda.
Beachlands Maraetai had to fight back from being a goal down before beating Franklin United 2-1 at Pukekohe.
Whichever side wins this clash could become the league leader come Saturday evening … reward enough to encourage an entertaining game for sideline supporters and neutrals.
Player to watch
Haylen West notched a first-week hat trick for West Auckland in their 4-0 win at Oratia United last week.
West (25), who played for Bay Olympic before joining West Auckland, scored five goals in all of last season, so he’s off to a flying start this term.
He gets the chance to add to his tally when West Auckland host Northland, who lost their opener 2-1 at Bucklands Beach.
Bucklands Beach were forced to come back from behind last week, when they trailed 1-0 at half-time against Northland.
Goals from last season’s top goalscorer, Sander Waterland, and Lyle Jones got the newly-installed coaching partnership of Warwick McCarthy and Neil Finnigan off to a 2-1 winning start.
READ MORE: New coaching partnership to take Bucklands Beach in NRFL Northern Conference >>>>
I’m tipping a comfortable win for Bucklands Beach against a Waitemata side that lost 3-0 to Albany.
Not the boldest prediction, I admit. But at this stage of the season, form reversals are fairly common as sides settle down.
Last week, I tipped that the Westie derby between Oratia United and West Auckland could go either way, but there’d be five or more goals. West Auckland won 4-0.
Games to be played on Saturday April 1, 2023
Oratia United v Franklin United
Parrs Park, Oratia, 3pm
Waitemata v Bucklands Beach
McLeods Park, Te Atatu South, 3pm
Beachlands Maraetai v Albany United
Te Puru Park, Beachlands, 3pm
West Auckland v Northland
Brains Park, Kelston, 3pm
Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.