Four-way challenge for the lead in Lotto NRFL Northern Conference

By Jack Sharp

Any of four teams could be top of the table by Saturday night, such is the competitive nature of the Lotto NRFL Northern Conference.

Fourth-placed Waitemata could go above leaders Bucklands Beach if they beat them in Friday’s game at McLeod Park.

Beachlands Maraetai can keep up their title push with a win at Oratia United, also on Friday.

By Saturday, when second-placed Franklin United play Central United, they’ll know what’s needed to get past their rivals.

Game of the week

Check out the bottom of the table, and it’s as tight there as it is at the top.

Bottom side West Auckland have had a dreadful run in the league since their last win, a 6-3 beating of Waitemata in mid-April.

The last two games have seen them concede 10 goals, from a 6-4 loss to relegation rivals Albany United and a 4-2 loss to Waitemata.

Somehow, the side that went oh-so-close to winning promotion last year is doing it tough this year.

But this weekend presents an opportunity to turn things around.

They travel to eighth-placed Northland and a win there will pull them level on points, and with a game in hand.

Albany have a bye, so the bottom trio could be only a point apart if West Auckland pull off a win.

Northland hammered West Auckland 5-0 in the reverse fixture in May but have made a habit of losing by small margins or drawing games since.

This game is a six-pointer, with much at stake.

Player to watch

Alejo di Carlo (29) left Metro for Waitemata in June and has already made an impact for his new club.

He scored both his side’s goals in their 2-2 draw at Northland in mid-June — one of them from the penalty spot — and then another spot kick got Waitemata home 1-0 against Northland last weekend.

Bold prediction

Somehow, Central United have turned around a bad run of form with two decent wins in July — a 4-0 win against Oratia United and a 3-1 win against high-flying Beachlands Maraetai.

On Saturday, they host unbeaten Franklin United, who have drawn more than half their fixtures this season.

I fancy Central to send Franklin home with another draw, or even a loss.

Last week, I picked the Albany United v Oratia United game would have four or more goals, with the Tia coming out on top. Albany steamed home 5-0.


Games to be played on Friday July 14, 2023

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

Waitemata v Bucklands Beach
McLeod Park, Te Atatu, 3pm

Games to be played on Saturday July 15, 2023

Northland v West Auckland
Trigg Arena, Whangarei, 3pm

Central United v Franklin United
Croatian Cultural Club, Te Atatu, 3pm

Albany United — 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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