Cup commitments open way for new leader in Lotto NRFL Northern Conference

By Jack Sharp

With the competition’s top two teams tied up in Chatham Cup fixtures, third-placed Beachlands Maraetai are well-positioned to take leadership of the Lotto NRFL Men’s Northern Conference.

They play Central United, whose form has dipped, and by Saturday night, they may well have climbed past Bucklands Beach and Franklin United on the league ladder.

Game of the week

Albany United must start winning soon if they’re going to scramble away from the Conference trapdoor or they’ll land in next season’s NRF League One.

But winless Albany are making it hard for themselves.

Last weekend, they travelled to Whangarei and ground out a scoreless draw with struggling Northland.

However, in stoppage time, they were reduced to nine men with a straight red card to Nicolas Aravena, and a double yellow to captain Andrew O’Toole.

They are two of Albany’s more experienced players and they’ve copped one-match bans, sidelining them for Saturday’s trip to Oratia United.

Oratia United forward Mark Withers is thwarted by West Auckland goalkeeper David Koloamatangi in last month’s Northern Conference fixture. Photo: Andrew Skinner / Phototek.

The Tia won their last game 1-0, giving Bucklands Beach their first loss of the season, and they had a bye last weekend.

On form, they should overcome Albany.

Albany need to recreate the form they produced in April when they beat Oratia 3-1 in a match later voided when Northern Region Football decided to redraw and restart the competition.

Player to watch

He’s only played two games so far this season but veteran defender Cole Tinkler (37) has the experience to help Northland steer clear of relegation.

Tinkler is a former New Zealand age group international (U-17, U-20 and U-23) and was called into the All Whites squad in 2006 but didn’t win a cap.

Last year, he was playing Masters football for Western Springs but now he’s in the Northland squad, and he played 65 minutes in their 0-0 draw against Albany United last weekend.

Tinkler was a guest on the award-winning Between Two Beers podcast. Listen to the interview here …

Bold prediction

Central United could be in for a hiding when they head to Te Puru Park on Saturday to face Beachlands Maraetai.

After a promising start, Central’s form has slipped and they haven’t won since late April.

Since then, their results have included a 6-0 drubbing by Bucklands Beach, a 1-1 draw with winless Albany United and last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Waitemata.

Beachlands Maraetai will fancy taking top spot in the competition on Saturday, with neither of the leaders playing, and could make a statement with a big win.

Last weekend, they drew 5-5 with high-flying Franklin United.

I’m tipping a big win — by a four-goal margin or more — to Beachlands Maraetai.

Last week, I predicted a close match between Franklin and Beachlands Maraetai, tipping Franklin to win 1-0. Both sides went goal-crazy in their 5-5 draw.

… and one more thing

Supporters of Northern Conference football will no doubt look for Chatham Cup results on Saturday to see how Bucklands Beach and Franklin United fare.

Both have big challenges, with Bucklands Beach heading to Kiwitea Street and a tie with cup holders and OFC champions Auckland City.

Franklin United visit Northern League club Birkenhead United, winners of the Chatham Cup in 2016 and 2018.

It’s an ideal opportunity for the conference teams to punch above their weight and show the gap between the two competitions.

Franklin and Bucklands Beach will play their rescheduled league fixture on Wednesday night at Drury.


Chatham Cup

Auckland City v Bucklands Beach
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 2pm

Birkenhead United v Franklin United
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 4.30pm

Lotto NRFL Northern Conference

Games to be played on Saturday June 17, 2023

Northland v Waitemata
Trigg Arena, Whangarei, 3pm

Oratia United v Albany United
Parrs Park, Oratia, 3pm

Beachlands Maraetai v Central United
Te Puru Park, Beachlands, 3pm

West Auckland — Bye

Game to be played on Wednesday June 21, 2021

Franklin United v Bucklands Beach
Drury Sports Complex, Drury, 8pm
*Rescheduled from June 17 due to both clubs’ commitments in Chatham Cup

Jack Sharp

Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.

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