It’s anybody’s contest as top five bunch up in Lotto NRFL Northern Conference

By Jack Sharp

The Lotto NRFL Northern Conference is turning into a hotly-contested competition in which any of the clubs in the top half of the table can mount a run at the title.

With seven rounds to go, there are only four points between top spot and fifth, and recent results have shown any team can beat any other on the day.

The only thing guaranteed this week is that West Auckland will remain bottom of the table — frustratingly for them, they have a bye.

Game of the week

Bucklands Beach had last week off (a bye), and they’ll host unbeaten Franklin United, who scraped past lowly Albany United 3-2.

The home side have the tightest defence in the competition and they appear to have suffered no shakes of confidence after their 9-0 Chatham Cup loss to national champions Auckland City in mid-June.

In fact, in their only game since, they rolled current league leaders Beachlands Maraetai 4-2.

Franklin United have some tidy players who just seem to do enough to get a result — they’ve only won once by a margin of more than one goal in the league.

And their four draws (and loss of eight potential points) could prove costly.

In the lead-up to the June 30 transfer deadline, they lost former Solomon Islands captain Henry Fa’arodo to Ngaruawahia United.

He’d been lightly used this season by Franklin and had not found the net.

His replacement, Iwa Shaker, signed from Papatotoe, has an outstanding goalscoring record at this level.

Player to watch

Striker Iwa Shaker (34) has been a prolific goalscorer for a number of clubs in Auckland.

Last season, he scored 24 goals for Papatoetoe in the NRF Men’s Championship. This year, he’s been off to a slow start, with only two goals for Papatoetoe, and he moved to Franklin in late May.

His pedigree also includes stints with Manurewa, Mount Albert Ponsonby, Bucklands Beach, Manukau United and Auckland City.

He’s yet to open his account for Franklin, but it won’t be long coming.

Bold prediction

Oratia United lost 4-0 to Central United last weekend, but they didn’t help themselves by losing goalkeeper Eamon Goodin to a red card on the hour, and having to play a man down for the last third of the game.

They had been trailing 1-0 at that stage, with Central benefitting from an own goal, and they conceded two penalties and an outfield goal to cap an awful day.

I’m picking Oratia will be able to put that game behind them and regain winning form against an improved Albany United.

Both sides can get in the goalscoring mood, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oratia come out on top in a game with four or more goals.

Last week, I predicted Oratia United would be top of the league by Saturday night but they fluffed their lines against Central United.


Games to be played on Saturday , 2023

Waitemata v Northland
McLeod Park, Te Atatu, 3pm

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

Bucklands Beach v Franklin United
Rogers Park, Bucklands Beach, 3pm

Central United v Beachlands Maraetai
Croatian Cultural Club, Te Atatu South, 3pm

West Auckland — Bye

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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