By Jonno Ross
The Northern League’s top four teams all meet each other this weekend, with leaders Auckland City and Eastern Suburbs still unbeaten.
Champions City meet Auckland United in the Dominion Road derby, while Eastern Suburbs head south to play fourth-placed Manurewa.
Game of the week
With a game in hand, and a point behind Springs, Birkenhead United will look at this game as a ‘must-win’ fixture.
Birkenhead currently sit just three points off a National League qualifying place.
Earlier in the season, Birkenhead were having setbacks with inconsistent results, but they seem to have turned it around of late, and have lost only three of their last 10 games in the league.
A consistent out-and-out goalscorer has been amiss for Birko, but with new signing from Waiheke United, Niko Vanina, things look promising.
After scoring his first goal for the club in their 3-0 win over Bay Olympic, Vanina will no doubt be eager to impress again this weekend when he makes his third appearance for Birkenhead.
Western Springs are coming off a high, after beating Auckland City 3-2 in last weekend’s Chatham Cup tie, and handing the OFC and New Zealand champions just their fourth loss in 63 matches.
Achieving such a feat should fill the Springs side with confidence, with a belief they can beat anyone in that mood.
To have that ‘intimidation’ factor in their favour will give them a slight edge over future opponents — providing they can match the same levels they reached against City.
If striker Keegan Kelly can continue his fine form of five goals in four games, and Oscar Ramsay can add to his tally of seven goals for the season, that would be a great help.
However, Western Springs seem to rely heavily on their goalscorers — they have managed only two clean sheets all season, which is reflected on the league table — they have the worst goal difference differential of the top six teams.
We can expect goals in this one; it should be an exciting game to watch!
Player to watch
Keegan Kelly has begun showing what he’s capable of.
When he moved from East Coast Bays, where he was top scorer last season in the Lotto NRFL First Division, he arrived at Seddon Fields with a glowing reputation.
But it’s taken a while for the teenager to find his place in the Northern League.
His five goals in four games for Western Springs, including a double in his side’s impressive 3-2 Chatham Cup win over Auckland City, suggests he’s found the level.
This week, I predict West Coast Rangers will do the treble over Bay Olympic with a 2-1 win.
Rangers won 2-1 in the reverse fixture, and beat Olympic 1-0 in Round 2 of the Chatham Cup just over a month ago.
Last time out, I predicted a 6-0 win to Auckland United against Manukau United. Auckland United won 3-0.
Game to be played on Friday July 14, 2023
Auckland City v Auckland United
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3pm
Games to be played on Saturday July 15, 2023
Bay Olympic v West Coast Rangers
Ken Maunder Park, New Lynn, 3pm
Manukau United v Melville United
Walter Massey Park, Manukau, 3pm
Manurewa v Eastern Suburbs
War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers v Takapuna
Ashurst Park, Hamilton, 3pm
Game to be played on Sunday July 16, 2023
Birkenhead United v Western Springs
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm
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