By Jonno Ross
Expect plenty of goals in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship this weekend as the fixture list puts some of the competition’s leakiest defences to the test.
Two high-scoring teams — Hibiscus Coast and Mount Albert Ponsonby — go head-to-head, while half the clubs are already conceding an average of more than two goals a game.
It makes for entertaining football — here are the fixtures for round 5:
Game of the week
Hibiscus Coast’s game against Mount Albert Ponsonby is our game of the week.
Both sides remain undefeated after four games, conceding just the one goal each and each keeping three clean sheets.
This makes them the league’s two best teams in terms of defence.
It’s not just the rearguard doing the job for these high-flying teams.
Hibiscus Coast have scored an impressive nine goals in their opening four games, while Mount Albert Ponsonby top that with 13 goals in their opening fixtures.
It’s a big turnaround for MAP since this time last season when they had managed to pick up only five points.
This match is difficult to call — both sides will be full of confidence, with threatening attacks and solid defences.
But whoever wins this one will put themselves in the frame for early season favouritism for promotion.
Players to watch
Keep a watch on Nicolai Berry from East Coast Bays, and Jonathan Cantle from Mount Albert Ponsonby.
The East Coast Bays number 10 has scored four goals in the opening four games, and will fancy his chances against a Waiheke team who are conceding an average of three goals a game.
Cantle has had a knack of being in the right place at the right time this season. The left centre half is his side’s top goal scorer with three goals, and he will believe he can get on the score sheet again this weekend.
I’m picking North Shore United to get their first win of the season and I think they’ll do it well, with a 3-0 home win over Ellerslie.
United will not want to be labelled draw specialists after sharing the points in their opening three games; I expect nothing but a win from them this Saturday.
Ellerslie will be without Patrick Grey, suspended after collecting two yellow cards against Tauranga City.
One more thing …
Northern Rovers will be without coach Paul Gothard in the dugout, after he was red-carded during his side’s 3-1 loss at Ngaruawahia United on Easter Monday.
Games to be played on Saturday April 15, 2023
East Coast Bays v Waiheke United
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm
Tauranga City v Metro
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 3pm
North Shore United v Ellerslie
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm
Northern Rovers v Fencibles United
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm
Onehunga Mangere United v Ngaruawahia United
Mangere Domain, Mangere, 3pm
Hibiscus Coast v Mount Albert Ponsonby
Stanmore Bay Park, Stanmore Bay, 3pm
Friends of Football writer Jonno Ross is a media writer for the NZ Football Foundation. A former New Zealand U-20 goalkeeper, he is the team manager for Mount Albert Ponsonby. He supports the All Whites, the Football Ferns, the Wellington Phoenix and Arsenal.