By Jack Sharp
Bay of Plenty sides have started badly in the new Lotto NRFL Southern Conference — and the results might not get any better over Easter.
After two rounds, Otumoetai, Papamoa and newly-formed Ngongotaha Lakes are all without wins and prop up the bottom of the eight-team table.
All three go on the road for this weekend’s games and current form suggests they’ll be battling for points.
The Mark Cossey-coached Papamoa probably stand the best chance of a result, against Te Awamutu on Good Friday.
But bottom-placed Otumoetai and Ngongotaha Lakes face tough challenges with trips to Waikato Unicol and Claudelands Rovers.
Game of the week
Taupo travel to Cambridge on the back of two good wins and there’s every indication that there’ll be goals aplenty at John Kerkhof Park.
With striker Joe O’Donghue in fine form, Taupo smashed five past Papamoa and then three last weekend against Te Awamutu.
Cambridge’s season started with a loss to Claudelands Rovers but the revival started in round 2 when the side fought back from a two-goal deficit to scrape home against Otumoetai.
Player-coach Jordan Shaw led by example, scoring the Reds’ first goal in that win, and the result might have kickstarted the Cambridge campaign.
Player to watch
Waikato Unicol look title contenders already, having recruited well with Bailey Webster, Levi Clark and Dominick Edwards all joining from neighbouring Claudelands Rovers, and forward Donovan Latham signing from Ngaruawahia United.
But the player to watch is captain Thomas Wright (24), who is in his sixth season with Unicol.
He took responsibility for taking what turned out to be the matchwinning penalty against Claudelands Rovers last week.
Good teams usually have good captains. Expect Wright and Unicol to continue their winning ways this weekend.
Not the boldest of predictions, I admit, but I’m tipping the woes to continue for the three Bay of Plenty sides, and all will still be winless by the end of this round.
Last week, I picked Unicol to beat Rovers 3-1, whereas their winning margin was 2-1.
Game to be played on Friday April 7, 2023
Te Awamutu v Papamoa
The Stadium, Te Awamutu, 3pm
Games to be played on Saturday April 8, 2023
Cambridge v Taupo
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm
Waikato Unicol v Otumoetai
Waikato University, Hamilton, 3pm
Claudelands Rovers v Ngongotaha Lakes
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 3pm
Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.