By Jonno Ross
It’s getting tough at the bottom of the Northern League — and this weekend’s games are likely to play a big part in sorting out what looks like becoming a three-way relegation scrap.
Manukau United, Bay Olympic and the winless Takapuna prop up the table, and are in danger of losing touch with the group of clubs above them.
Manukau head to Manurewa for a South Auckland derby that’s important for both clubs.
Promoted Rewa are flying high, in third, despite a series of distractions on and off the pitch this year, and missing key players through suspension and injury.
They are still managing to win, and they average three goals a game.
in a game that will be live-streamed, Manurewa come up against the league’s leakiest defence and missing Emman Rahimi and Kentaro Ozaki, who both copped double yellows against Hamilton Wanderers last weekend.
Game of the week
The two bottom sides go head-to-head at Takapuna’s Taharoto Park on Saturday in a proverbial six-pointer.
Takapuna are having a hard time finding the net this season.
With only four goals after eight games, it’s no shock to find them at the foot of the table with only two points to show for their efforts.
At the same last season, the newly-promoted Takapuna had notched up 11 points — which would have been enough to keep them in the division at season’s end. Early signs suggest a similar haul this year could be enough to avoid the drop.
Bay Olympic appear to have a problem with their concentration levels late in their games.
They have dropped points in at least three games when they have lost by a single goal, and have conceded six goals in injury time.
Scoring goals hasn’t been their problem — they have already conceded an alarming 25 goals (no, that is not a typo!) in eight games.
Shoring up the defence will be their number one priority and they’ll get no better opportunity for a clean sheet than this weekend.
Player to watch
Hamilton Wanderers’ talismanic captain Derek Tieku just can’t stop scoring.
He got another double last weekend and salvaged a point for his side with his 90th-minute equalizer against Manukau United.
He has scored an impressive 10 goals in eight games, and looks a good bet to land back-to-back Golden Boot awards come the end of the season.
Martin Bueno (Eastern Suburbs) scored his sixth goal of the season last week in his team’s 4-2 win over Bay Olympic. If he can keep finding the net, Suburbs can build their lead of the table while Auckland City are away on OFC Champions League duty.
This week, I predict West Coast Rangers will make it three wins in a row when they play Melville United under the newly-installed floodlights at Hamilton’s Gower Park.
If I’m right, Rangers could sneak into the top four and start believing they’ve got a shot at qualifying for National League football later in the year.
I’ll tip a 2-1 win for the West Auckland outfit.
Last week I predicted Western Springs would beat Manurewa 3-1. I got the scoreline right but it was Manurewa who came away with the win.
Games to be played on Saturday May 13, 2023
Auckland United v Western Springs
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 3pm
Eastern Suburbs v Birkenhead United
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 3pm
Takapuna v Bay Olympic
Taharoto Park, Takapuna, 3pm
Manurewa v Manukau United
Manurewa War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm
Melville United v West Coast Rangers
Gower Park, Hamilton, 5.30pm
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.