By Jonno Ross
Leaders East Coast Bays and Hibiscus Coast threaten to break further clear in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.
Bays play lowly Onehunga Mangere United this weekend, while unbeaten Hibiscus Coast have home advantage (and the league’s tightest defence) to take on Ellerslie.
Meanwhile, inconsistency has dogged the cluster of teams trying to catch the top pair.
This weekend’s fixtures provide opportunities for teams looking to turn around their form.
Game of the week
When the annual fixture list comes out, supporters of Mt Albert Ponsonby and Metro look for this match.
It’s always a highly-anticipated derby, and for both sides, losing seems unfathomable.
Both clubs are in the bottom half of the table and will wonder what they need to do to turn their seasons around.
Of the two, MAP will be asking the most questions. After flying out of the traps at the start of the season, things have fallen apart.
They won their opening four games, scoring 13 goals and conceding just once.
They lost their next four, conceding 15 goals and scoring only six times.
The loss through injury of key centre-back Jonathan Cantle has been a great loss, and his side will hope he will be match-fit by the time kick-off comes around on Saturday.
MAP play eight of their next nine games at home, a potential motivating factor in getting their season back on track.
Having won just once since the opening day of the season — a win in their last league outing against Onehunga Mangere United — Metro have every right to turn up with more confidence than the home team.
They know that their opponents are leaking goals like a sieve, so coach Scott Mackay will look to be strong at the back and build from there to get the result.
An added incentive for Mackay is putting one across his former club, having been the MAP coach from 2016-18.
With MAP low on confidence and in poor form, Mackay will recognise this is the perfect time to get the three points and clamber away from the league’s bottom three.
Players to watch
David Brown from East Coast Bays scored a hat trick against Northern Rovers in Round 8 and will look to build on his tally of five goals for the season when he goes up against relegation-threatened Onehunga Mangere United.
Goalkeeper Lewis Caunter will be after his sixth clean sheet of the season in the same match. The ‘Bays custodian has been superb this season, conceding five goals in eight appearances.
I fancy Ngaruawahia United to beat Fencibles United 3-0 at home.
The ‘Green Machine’ have played only twice on home soil this season, but both times they have landed the three points.
Fencibles will find the Centennial Park pitch tricky to play on (it’s not in great condition), and the Waikato side will take advantage of that.
Games to be played on Saturday May 20, 2023
Hibiscus Coast v Ellerslie
Stanmore Bay Park, Whangaparaoa, 3pm
Mount Albert Ponsonby v Metro
Anderson Park, Mt Albert, 3pm
Ngaruawahia United v Fencibles United
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, 3pm
North Shore United v Waiheke United
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm
Northern Rovers v Tauranga City
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm
Onehunga Mangere United v East Coast Bays
Mangere Domain, Mangere, 3pm
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