Top-of-the-table clash turns focus on Lotto NRFL Southern Conference

By Jack Sharp

The top four clubs meet each other in this weekend’s crucial round of fixtures in the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference.

The results could leave three or four Waikato clubs pushing their claims for the title, with Papamoa the only Bay of Plenty side trying to tack onto the tail of the leading bunch.

Bottom-placed Otumoetai play Papamoa in a local derby and badly need to stop their run of losses.

Game of the week

The top-of-the-table match between Waikato Unicol and Cambridge has much to offer.

The result will decide whether Unicol can skip further clear or whether Cambridge can win and turn the title race into a three or four club battle.

Unicol coach Scott Parsonage takes his side to John Kerkhof Park, where Parsonage is a past Cambridge Player of the Year. His squad includes attacking midfielder Levi Clark, another ex-Cambridge player, who scored a double against Te Awamutu last weekend.

Up front is Donovan Latham, yet another former Cambridge player, who moved across from Ngaruawahia for this season.

Apart from their opening day loss to Claudelands Rovers, Cambridge have been tracking well with four successive wins.

The Reds have been boosted by the return of last year’s top scorer, Joshua Clarkin, who has returned from a short stint with Hamilton Wanderers, to join current in-form striker Krishaant Singh, who has seven goals already this term.

This is going to be a cracker of a game, and will certainly have a big influence on the end-of-season reckonings.

Player to watch

The versatile Harry Christensen-Rose, who seems capable in a number of positions, is in his second spell at Claudelands Rovers, returning there after time with Melville United where he was a fringe player.

Christensen-Rose (23) seems to have found his groove with Rovers, scoring four goals in five rounds, and becoming an automatic choice for coach Paul Richardson.

He and third-placed Rovers head to fourth-placed Taupo for an important match on Saturday, with the winner increasing their claims to join the title race.

Taupo have the competition’s leading scorer in Joe O’Donghue (nine goals) but it could be Christensen-Rose who makes the difference in this match.

Bold prediction

Cambridge are on the improve and know they must beat Waikato Unicol to further their hopes of promotion to the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.

In front of their own supporters, they’ll be well-positioned to hand Unicol their first loss of the season.

I’m tipping 2-0 to Cambridge.

Last week, I tipped Waikato Unicol to beat Te Awamutu but warned it might be more difficult that expected, if Te Awamutu could hold out the leaders early. As it happened, Te Awamutu conceded early, giving away a 2nd-minute penalty. That opened the floodgates for a 6-1 thrashing.


Games to be played on Saturday May 6, 2023

Cambridge v Waikato Unicol
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm

Papamoa v Otumoetai
Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa, 3pm

Taupo v Claudelands Rovers
Crown Park, Taupo, 3pm

Te Awamutu v Ngongotaha Lakes
The Stadium, Te Awamutu, 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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