Waikato Unicol poised to increase their lead in Lotto NRFL Southern Conference

By Jack Sharp

Waikato Unicol are sitting pretty at the top of the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference and there’s every chance they might increase their lead this weekend.

Unicol have a routine assignment against struggling Otumoetai while their nearest rivals face each other, a clash that will see one or both drop points in the title race.

Game of the week

Taupo move into second place on the table if they beat Cambridge at Crown Park on Saturday.

By doing that, they’ll give themselves a shot at catching leaders Waikato Unicol, who could extend their lead to five points by Saturday night.

So, there’s plenty riding on Taupo’s match with Cambridge.

Taupo thrashed bottom side Te Awamutu 7-0 last weekend, signalling the return of striker Joe O’Donoghue who registered a first-half hat-trick, including two from the penalty spot.

O’Donogue missed rounds seven and eight of the competition but has been prolific in the games he has played, scoring 13 goals in his seven appearances.

Cambridge are also finding their goalscoring touch with a 5-1 win last weekend at Otumoetai.

The Reds have demonstrated an ability to score goals from all over the park, and they have a set of goalscoring defenders, including Jack Portegys and Daniel Clarkin, as well as player-coach Jordan Shaw, who all found the net last time out.

A Cambridge win at Taupo tilts the title race back to being a two-team race with Unicol.

Player to watch

Luke Barker has scored six goals in his last four games for Ngongotaha Lakes, and has been a prolific goalscorer in seasons past for the Ngongotaha club that is a partner in the Conference side with Rotorua’s Lakes.

He scored early last weekend, but his side lost at home to Papamoa.

Home again this weekend, Ngongotaha Lakes play a Claudelands Rovers side that have been leaking goals of late (10 in their last three games).

It’s the perfect chance for Barker to strike again.

Bold prediction

This is one of those weeks where it’s hard to see an upset.

Unicol and Papamoa should register wins against the bottom sides.

The other games look to be close, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both the Taupo/Cambridge and Ngongotaha Lakes/Claudelands Rovers games were draws.

Last week, I tipped a three-goal margin to Ngongotaha Lakes against Papamoa, and got it all wrong. Papamoa won the game 2-1.


Games to be played on Saturday June 17, 2023

Papamoa v Te Awamutu
Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa, 3pm

Taupo v Cambridge
Crown Park, Taupo, 3pm

Otumoetai v Waikato Unicol
Fergusson Park, Otumoetai, 3pm

Ngongotaha Lakes v Claudelands Rovers
Tamarahi Reserve, Ngongotaha, 3pm

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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