By Jonno Ross
League leaders Eastern Suburbs can stretch their unbeaten streak to 11 games as they head to Keith Hay Park on Saturday for a tough game against fourth-placed Auckland United.
The Lilywhites are six points clear of champions Auckland City and can open up that gap this weekend while the Navy Blues are competing at the OFC Champions League in Vanuatu.
The Auckland United v Suburbs game is likely to draw a large crowd, as the two clubs are playing four men’s and women’s games at Keith Hay Park.
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Game of the week
As they prepare to host Birkenhead United, Hamilton Wanderers must be kicking themselves as they wonder how they are only 9th on the ladder.
Small slip-ups in games they were (arguably) expected to win have cost them at least six competition points.
Had they capitalized on those games, they would be challenging for a top-four position.
But It’s not too late for the Waikato side to turn things around.
With the league’s top goalscorer, Derek Tieku, in scintillating form, now is the time for Wanderers to start putting back-to-back wins together.
The attacking third is doing their job, having scored 18 goals (Tieku with 12 of them), but the defence needs get sorted, having conceded 18 goals, an average of two a game.
Birkenhead United will be relieved after last week’s 5-0 emphatic win over Takapuna.
It was United’s first win in four weeks.
United will need to exploit Wanderers defensive frailties, especially if Luke Jorgensen and Byron Heath can increase their goalscoring output on a more consistent basis. They have nine goals between them.
Birkenhead will make a run for a top four position, where they expect to be, having finished in the top four for the last four years (excluding 2020 because of the COVID pandemic).
Whatever happens in Saturday’s late game, there’ll be goals and the neutral spectators won’t be disappointed — guaranteed entertainment when watching a Wanderers game!
Player to watch
I called it last week, and he pulled through brilliantly. After having a bit of a goal drought, Western Springs’ Oscar Ramsay scored a double against Manukau United last weekend.
This week’s player to watch is Will Mendoza from Manurewa.
Since the suspensions of Nico Bobadilla and Agustin Contratti, and the ongoing injury to striker Monty Patterson, Mendoza has stepped up, scoring in consecutive games and helping Rewa to two wins.
He can do the same again this weekend when Rewa host out-of-sorts Bay Olympic.
Eastern Suburbs are taking full advantage of Auckland City’s absence (at the OFC Champions League), and I reckon they’ll go nine points clear of the champions with a 2-1 win against Auckland United on Saturday.
I also predict Western Springs will sneak into a top-four position with a 3-1 win at Melville United.
Last week I predicted Hamilton Wanderers to win away at Bay Olympic with a 3-2 win. I was close — Wanderers won 3-1.
Games to be played on Saturday May 27, 2023
Auckland United v Eastern Suburbs
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 3pm
Manurewa v Bay Olympic
Manurewa War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm
Melville United v Western Springs
Gower Park, Hamilton, 3pm
Takapuna v West Coast Rangers
Taharoto Park, Takapuna, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers v Birkenhead United
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 5.30pm
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