More tight results expected as Championship teams play twice over long weekend

By Jack Sharp

It’s early days but there’s every indication that this year’s Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship is going to be particularly competitive.

Sure, there’s only been two rounds of play.

But there’s been no hint that any team is out of their depth, and no team has won by a margin of more than two goals in the 12 fixtures played so far.

Two full rounds of games take place over Easter and on the evidence so far, expect the close results to continue.

Game of the week

No question, it’s got to be the Good Friday match-up at Bay City Park where first-placed East Coast Bays host second-placed Ellerslie.

Both sides are off to flyers this season, and it’s already clear these teams are likely to be in the mix when titles and promotion spots are decided.

Bays have found a goalscorer to replace Keegan Kelly (who moved to Western Springs) with the return of Dylan Stansfield, who scored a double in last weekend’s win at Fencibles United.

Ellerslie’s Tim Durkin has three goals already for the season and the Ponies showed fight last weekend to score two late goals to claim Metro.

If you can only go to one game at the weekend, this is the one.

Player to watch

Goalkeeper Liam Smith (21) has started the season well for Mount Albert Ponsonby, claiming clean sheets in both of the side’s games so far.

He’s stepped into the first team slot after spells with the MAP reserves.

Over Easter, he and his teammates get the chance to add one, maybe two, more shutouts as they play two strugglers in Onehunga Mangere United (Friday) and Waiheke United (Monday).

Bold prediction

Hibiscus Coast are finding their feet at this level after winning promotion from last season’s Lotto NRFL second division.

I’m picking they’ll still be unbeaten by Monday night (they play Northern Rovers and Onehunga Mangere United over the weekend).

Last week, I tipped Tauranga to beat Ngaruwahia by a one-goal margin. They drew 1-1.


Games to be played on Friday April 7, 2023

Metro v Waiheke United
Phyllis St Reserve, Mt Albert, 3pm

East Coast Bays v Ellerslie
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm

Tauranga City v Fencibles United
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 3pm

North Shore United v Ngaruawahia United
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm

Northern Rovers v Hibiscus Coast
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm

Onehunga Mangere United v Mt Albert Ponsonby
Mangere Domain, Mangere, 3pm


Ellerslie v Tauranga City
Michaels Ave Reserve, Ellerslie, 3pm

Metro v East Coast Bays
Phyllis St Reserve, Mt Albert, 3pm

Hibiscus Coast v Onehunga Mangere United
Stanmore Bay Park, Stanmore Bay, 3pm

Ngaruawahia United v Northern Rovers
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, 3pm

Fencibles United v North Shore United
Riverhills Park, Pakuranga, 3pm

Waiheke United v Mt Albert Ponsonby
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke Island, 3pm

Jack Sharp

Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football. He’s filling in this week for our usual Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship writer, Jonno Ross.

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