‘Catch us if you can’ — Unicol look set to extend their Southern Conference lead

By Jack Sharp

After a week off for Chatham Cup fixtures, the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference resumes with one obvious question.

Will unbeaten Waikato Unicol be allowed to run further away from the chasing pack?

Three points ahead already, Unicol look capable of romping away with the competition and this week’s fixtures could see them go clear by as much as six points.

They have a seemingly straightforward match at Te Awamutu while their nearest rivals play each other, robbing at least one of them of the chance to gain ground.

Game of the week

The standout game of the round is between second-placed Cambridge and third-placed Papamoa.

Whoever wins the match at Cambridge’s John Kerkhof Park will be well-positioned to challenge competition leader Waikato Unicol who are likely to continue their 100% winning record at lowly Te Awamutu.

After a loss to Claudelands Rovers on opening day, Cambridge have won three on the trot and have found a goalscorer to replace last year’s Golden Boot winner Josh Clarkin, who moved to Hamilton Wanderers over summer.

He’s Krishaant Singh (22) who joined Cambridge from WaiBOP Premiership winners Waikato Unicol.

In Cambridge’s four Conference games, he’s scored six of their nine goals. He also scored in the side’s 4-2 Chatham Cup win last weekend against Auckland Sunday League side Sperm Whales.

Papamoa have been inconsistent and have shown they can score goals easily enough but also concede more than their share (10 in four league games).

Their performance is not helped by poor discipline which has seen them average three yellow cards a game, and they’ve had three sendings-off.

Wads Nelson and Connor Irvine cop bans for their red cards in last weekend’s Chatham Cup loss to Northern United, a 3-2 defeat in extra time.

Player to watch

Harlem Simiona (30) is the playmaker at newly-formed Ngongotaha Lakes, a side that’s gradually finding its feet in this new competition.

He’s become a regular in the Cook Islands national side and has stayed loyal to Ngongotaha, one of the partner clubs in the new venture, despite opportunities to move to a higher level.

On the scoresheet three times already in the league, this attacking midfielder can inspire the younger players in this side, and they can move into the top half of the table with a win at Taupo.

Bold prediction

No prizes for tipping leaders Waikato Unicol to beat second-bottom Te Awamutu.

The competition’s best-attacking team against the side with the poorest defensive record.

Unicol should win but I’m predicting it won’t be as easy as it looks on paper. If Te Awamutu can stay in the contest for the first half-hour, they’ll make Unicol work for their win.

I’m forecasting a Unicol win, but they may need late goals to get there.


Games to be played on Saturday April 29, 2023

Cambridge v Papamoa
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm

Waikato Unicol v Te Awamutu
Jansen Park, Hamilton, 3pm

Taupo v Ngongotaha Lakes
Crown Park, Taupo, 3pm

Claudelands Rovers v Otumoetai
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 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.

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