Crucial games loom in Lotto NRFL Championship’s likely relegation battle

By Jonno Ross

With a third of the season gone, sides at the foot of the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship know they’re already getting into a scrap to avoid relegation.

Three sides are adrift — Metro (on four points and already five points behind the next highest team) and winless Onehunga Mangere United and Waiheke United, stuck on only two points apiece.

Metro have an important home fixture this weekend, hosting the men from Mangere Mountain, and they can turn the relegation screws on their opponents with a win.

Waiheke United’s poor start to the season is likely to continue as they face the improving Ngaruawahia United.

North Shore bragging rights are on the line this week as East Coast Bays try to reclaim top spot with a win against neighbours Northern Rovers.

Game of the week

East Coast Bays face Northern Rovers in the North Shore Derby on Saturday.

East Coast Bays somewhat surprisingly suffered their first defeat of the season last weekend in another north-of-the-bridge battle, losing 2-0 away at North Shore United.

After being held scoreless for the first time, and conceding their top-of-the-league status to Hibiscus Coast, Bays have plenty to play for when they seek to return to winning ways.

Northern Rovers have had an underwhelming opening start to their season, but after back-to-back wins (over Ellerslie, 4-3, and last weekend’s 2-1 win over Metro), they will hope these are the springboard to push their way up the ladder.

Having only hit the back of the net twice in their first games, Rovers seem to have finally found the right ingredients and chemistry in the final third with six goals in two games.

An added incentive for Rovers in this one — they held bragging rights over Bays last season, beating Bays 2-1 away, and then drawing the final game of the season with a 1-1 draw at home.

Plenty is on the line for both teams — keep an eye on this one as it has the makings of a classic Championship match.

READ MORE: East Coast Bays’ match programme for Northern Rovers fixture >>>>

Player to watch

I’m impressed by young Jonty Bidois, the dangerous number 9 from Tauranga City.

He’s come through the grades at Tauranga City and with Tauranga Boys College, and the 19-year-old is set for a breakout season.

He doesn’t score in singles. If he scores one, he’s just as likely to get another. He has scored doubles against Fencibles United, Metro and Waiheke, and leads the goalscoring charts (with Tom Durkin from Ellerslie). Both have six from seven rounds of play.

He and his Tauranga side host North Shore United on Saturday.

Bold prediction

Onehunga Mangere United desperately need their first win of the season — and I think they might land it this weekend.

They travel to Metro in what is a proverbial six-pointer at the bottom end of the table.

Onehunga Mangere were were unlucky not to get the win last week against Ellerslie, conceding in the 85th minute to draw 2-2.

Metro are also struggling in the league, so neither side will cave in without a struggle.

I predict a 3-1 win to the away side.

Last week I predicted Mount Albert Ponsonby would win against Fencibles United (wishful thinking, perhaps). Instead, Fencibles won 4-2.

READ MORE: Last weekend’s results and scorers >>>>


Games to be played on Saturday May 6, 2023

East Coast Bays v Northern Rovers
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm

READ MORE: East Coast Bays’ match programme for Northern Rovers fixture >>>>

Ellerslie v Mount Albert Ponsonby
Michaels Ave Reserve, Ellerslie, 3pm

Fencibles United v Hibiscus Coast
Riverhills Park, Pakuranga, 3pm

Metro v Onehunga Mangere United
Phyllis St, Mt Albert, 3pm

Tauranga City v North Shore United
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 3pm

Waiheke United v Ngaruawahia United
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke Island, 3pm


Jonno Ross

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.

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