By Jack Sharp
Bucklands Beach and Franklin United have slipped away from the field and appear to be turning the Lotto NRFL Northern Conference into a two-team race.
Both are favourites to win again this weekend, while other fixtures will put the pressure on their nearest rivals to stay in contention.
Game of the week
Unbeaten Franklin United should treat their match at Oratia United with caution — it’s all a matter of which Tia will turn up at Parrs Park.
Will it be the side that beat Beachlands Maraetai 4-1 in their last outing?
Or will it be team that crashed 5-0 to Albany United the week before?
Of all the teams in the Northern Conference, none have been more difficult to predict than Oratia United.
Franklin, on the other hand, have been a model of consistency, but with a tendency to drop points in draws (five of their 11 games have ended in stalemates).
Their 4-0 win last weekend, against Beachlands Maraetai, was more emphatic, and they’ve got a powerful strike partnership in Mohammed Shah and Tim Richardson, who have scored 15 of their side’s 27 goals this term.
Franklin should win this one but with Oratia, nothing can be taken for granted.
If the home side fires, this game will be entertaining.
Player to watch
Waitemata’s long-serving captain Sam Sedon had a mixed bag in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Central United.
He’s not been regarded as one of the club’s most regular goalscorers – one goal in the last three seasons, if football’s database is to be believed.
He opened the scoring from the penalty spot; then he doubled his side’s lead from open play.
But Sedon (31) spoiled the day, conceding an own goal in the final minute of play.
With more than 150 appearances for Waitemata, Sedon deserved better, and at least he can claim a hat-trick of sorts.
Albany United have been on the ascendancy with three wins and a narrow loss to unbeaten Franklin United in their last four outings.
They head to Waitemata who have also been climbing the table with three wins in the past month.
However, Waitemata’s wins have been against three of the four teams at the bottom end of the table (West Auckland, Northland and Central).
I prefer Albany’s chances in this one, but it’ll be close.
Last week, I tipped Albany to beat Northland by three or more goals. Albany won 2-1.
Games to be played on Saturday , 2023
Beachlands Maraetai v West Auckland
Te Puru Park, Beachlands, 3pm
Oratia United v Franklin United
Parrs Park,Oratia, 3pm
Northland v Bucklands Beach
Trigg Arena, Whangarei, 3pm
Waitemata v Albany United
McLeod Park, Te Atatu South, 3pm
Central United — Bye
Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.