Upset results set up tight contests in Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship

By Jonno Ross

Once again, the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship is turning into a tight competition in which any side is capable of beating any other on their day.

Last weekend, struggling Onehunga Mangere United tipped over leaders East Coast Bays, and the league no longer has any teams unbeaten.

Like last year, the table changes as teams burst into form and then, just as quickly, find ways to lose.

It’s making for an intriguing league and this weekend’s games offer more opportunities for form reversals.

Game of the week

Despite being at opposite ends of the table, Tauranga City and Onehunga Mangere United have it all to play for when they meet at Links Ave on Saturday.

Both had important wins last weekend and in Tauranga’s case, other results also went their way.

Barry Gardiner’s Tauranga City sit third in the league, and would have been delighted to hear last weekend’s results in which leading pair Hibiscus Coast and East Coast Bays both lost.

Suddenly, the boys from the Mount are a mere two points off the leaders.

The last time Tauranga and United faced each other was just shy of a year ago (by one week), when the visitors took the spoils in a surprise 2-0 win.

City will look for their three main men — Jonty Bidois, Adam Davidson and Liam Molloy — to fire again.

They have 15 goals between them, more than half the teams’ tally for the season.

Onehunga Mangere undoubtedly pulled off the upset of the season when they beat league leaders East Coast Bays last weekend.

It delivered the first three points of their season, thanks to Maksim Manko’s second goal of the campaign, which came in the 59th minute.

The ‘Mountain Men’ currently occupy 11th spot on the league table, but the win last week will fill them with the confidence that they can crack on and pull themselves out of the relegation zone.

Improvement is needed in the final third of the pitch — they have scored only seven goals this season and have managed more than one goal in a match just once.

Tauranga City will have to be on their toes in this one; they won’t want to be the subject of another boilover.

Players to watch

Metro’s Gilberto Souza is in red-hot form at the moment. He scored again last weekend to make it four goals in four games.

After three seasons with Onehunga Mangere United, Souza (25) was an important pre-season signing for Metro and he’s a proven performer at this level.

Metro need him to keep banging them in as they look to climb the table against high-flying Hibiscus Coast.

Bold prediction

I’m tipping North Shore United to draw with Northern Rovers at Allen Hill Stadium.

Both sides have had trouble finding consistency this season, and I expect this one to be a cagey affair.

A 2-2 draw is my prediction.

Last week I predicted Ngaruawahia United to beat Fencibles 3-1. Ngaruawahia won 7-1; who could have predicted that big a margin?

… one more thing

The local derby between North Shore United and Northern Rovers will test the loyalties of former top striker Brian McKeown.

READ MORE: Local derby splits loyalties for former National League goalscoring great >>>>


Games to be played on Saturday May 27, 2023

East Coast Bays v Mt Albert Ponsonby
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm

Ellerslie v Ngaruawahia United
Michaels Ave, Ellerslie, 3pm

Metro v Hibiscus Coast
Phyllis St, Mt Albert, 3pm

North Shore United v Northern Rovers
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm

Tauranga City v Onehunga Mangere United
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 3pm

Waiheke United v Fencibles 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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