By Jonno Ross
A midtable clash between two Waikato rivals heads up a decent weekend of Northern League football.
Hamilton Wanderers and Melville United have more than bragging rights at stake. They are part of a midtable pack trying to stay in touch with the top four, keen to snatch a spot in the men’s National League.
Leaders Eastern Suburbs don’t play in the league this weekend — they have a rescheduled Chatham Cup tie at Tauranga City — so nearest rivals Auckland City get the chance to move three points closer.
Struggling Bay Olympic and Manukau United both have steep assignments as they try to get clear of the relegation zone.
Game of the week
What’s not to like about a Waikato derby!
At the moment, Hamilton Wanderers hold the bragging rights over Melville United, having taken the three points in the reverse fixture, with a 4-2 away win at Gower Park.
Wanderers have an even record across the board in terms of wins, draws and losses, with four of each.
They had taken the lead in three of their four draws but failed to see the game out.
Had they cashed in on those points, they would be sitting just two points outside the top four in 5th place.
Like earlier in the season, Wanderers are still struggling to build a consistent run of results, often winning a game well one week, then disappointing the following week.
The top four is still in their reach — only eight points behind the qualifying cut-off — and with teams ahead of them showing inconsistent form, they could go on a winning run and be right there in the mix.
Melville United sit just one place and one league point above Hamilton Wanderers.
Like Wanderers, they also need to find a level of consistency and go on a second-half-of-the-season run to challenge for a National League position.
United may struggle this week without the services of Ethan Richards, sent off in the 1-0 win against Takapuna last weekend, and they’ll hope Aaron Scott is fit to play after being subbed off in the 19th minute of that fixture.
United could do to find a goalscorer — their two joint top goalscorers are sitting on just three goals each.
If Wanderers win this one, they could go as high as fifth in the league; if Melville win, same deal — but they would go ahead of their rivals by four points.
Waikato derby to be live-streamed
Player to watch
Auckland City striker Ryan De Vries is on fire, having scored a hat-trick in his last league outing against Manukau United, and then backing it up a few days later with another hat-trick against Bucklands Beach in round three of the Chatham Cup.
That’s taken him to 17 goals in all competitions for City this year. And it’s only June …
I predict West Coast Rangers will seek revenge on Saturday and get it against Manukau United, who won 3-1 in the reverse fixture. I predict a 2-0 win for Rangers.
Last week I predicted a 2-2 draw between Auckland United and Hamilton Wanderers. Auckland United came away with an impressive 4-0 win
Game to be played on Friday June 23, 2023
Western Springs v Bay Olympic
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 7.30pm
Games to be played on Saturday June 24, 2023
Birkenhead United v Auckland City
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm
Manukau United v West Coast Rangers
Walter Massey Park, Manukau, 3pm
Manurewa v Auckland United
Manurewa War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers v Melville United
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 3pm
Takapuna v Eastern Suburbs
*Postponed due to Suburbs’ commitments in Chatham Cup
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