Northern League points at a premium as games decided by fine margins

posted in: News, Northern League

By Jonno Ross

It’s that time of year when games can be won or lost through key factors … an injury, a suspension or the arrival of a new signing ahead of the June 30 transfer deadline.

In midweek, ahead of his side’s catch-up game against Auckland City, Manurewa coach Paul Marshall made the point that to be successful at top level, clubs needed large squads with the depth of talent to succeed.

Cases in point have been the impact of player suspensions at Rewa and, more recently, at relegation-threatened Manukau United.

Those fine margins can translate into upset results, dropped points and form reversals.

This year’s Northern League is far from over, as a result.

Auckland City and Eastern Suburbs have full squads and look likely to decide the title between them.

The race for top four spots is still open for any team that puts a run of results together.

Game of the week

Unless the wheels come off at a midtable club, Takapuna are in a three-club battle to avoid ending the season in one of the two relegation spots.

In 11th place, and above bottom-placed Manukau United only on goal difference, Taka must start picking up points soon to dodge the drop.

Taka’s defence hasn’t been entirely to blame for their lowly league status; it’s been more a lack of productivity in the final third which has let them down.

In six of their 13 games, they have lost by a single goal.

If only their forwards can find their shooting boots, they’ll get the chance to play a third consecutive season in the Northern League since earning promotion in 2021.

Takapuna coach Chris Milicich … his team needs to start finding goals. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

As things stand, Taka are in control of their own destiny — they have a game in hand over 10th-placed Bay Olympic — but Chris Milicich’s men have to find form, and soon.

Western Springs jumped from 8th place to 5th last week with a 3-1 win over struggling Bay Olympic.

With Birkenhead United, Melville United and Hamilton Wanderers all failing to pick up three points last weekend, Springs now look capable of a shot at the coveted fourth spot, currently occupied by Manurewa.

Rewa are five points ahead of Springs but have a tough fixture schedule in July and could get pulled back to the pack.

Springs will be confident of a win against Takapuna, having beaten them 3-0 in Round 4, and blitzing them with three first-half goals in a 17-minute spell.

A slip-up on Saturday could see Springs fall as low as 9th on the table.

Springs haven’t won back-to-back games since they went undefeated from Rounds 3 to 6, but they’ll need to achieve that to start the push for fourth spot.

West Coast Rangers striker Allan Pearce … eight goals this season. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Player to watch

Allan Pearce is always worth watching.

The 40-year-old former New Zealand international scored a hat trick to help his West Coast Rangers side over the line in a 4-3 win over Manukau United last weekend, demonstrating that he’s still got what it takes to deliver at this level.

He’s now scored eight for the season, and shows no sign of running out of steam.

Another striker on the north side of 30 is Auckland City’s Ryan de Vries who was my player to watch last week.

He netted twice last weekend to earn his Auckland City team a 2-0 win, and backed up with a hat-trick against Manurewa on Wednesday night. That increased his goal tally in all competitions to 20.

Bold prediction

As if Manukau United weren’t struggling already.

They travel to Auckland United this weekend with Ricky Singh, Sameehg Doutie, and Calvin Mitchell suspended after seeing red last weekend.

Team manager Tashreeq Davids has taken leadership of the Manukau squad, with support from Stuart Prosser, after coaching changes at the club.

I predict a 6-0 win for Auckland United.

READ MORE: Relegation threat worsens as Manukau United hit with bans and player moves >>>>

Last week I predicted a 2-0 win to West Coast Rangers against Manukau United. Rangers won 4-3.

… one more thing

The weather has forced the live-streamed game between Melville United and Manurewa to transfer from Gower Park to Ashurst Park, Hamilton. A pitch inspection was passed at 9.30am on Saturday.

Auckland United’s game against Manukau United was transferred to Crum Park.


Games to be played on Saturday July 1, 2023

Northern League

West Coast Rangers v Auckland City
Huapai Reserve 1, Kumeu, 3pm

Melville United v Manurewa
Ashurst Park, Hamilton, 3pm

*Transferred from Gower Park; pitch inspection passed at 9.30am Saturday.

Takapuna v Western Springs
Taharoto Park, Auckland, 3pm

Eastern Suburbs v Hamilton Wanderers
Madills Farm, Auckland, 3pm

Auckland United v Manukau United
Tahurangi / Crum Park artificial, 3pm

*Moved from Waikaraka Park, Onehunga, 3pm

Games to be played on Sunday July 2, 2023

Birkenhead United v Bay Olympic
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, 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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