By Jack Sharp
There’s plenty at stake in this weekend’s round of Northern League games, with results likely to play a big part in deciding the title and which clubs will be relegated.
The round of games include a meeting of the top two clubs, and the bottom pair.
Game of the week
Unquestionably, the game to watch — live or on a screen — is the long-awaited meeting of the Northern League’s two unbeaten sides, Eastern Suburbs and Auckland City.
They are separated only by goal difference at the top of the table, with Auckland City having the better of that.
Both teams have been outstanding this year, and have established an 11-point gap from nearest rivals Auckland United who have played one game more than the two leaders.
So, the Saturday match-up at Madills Farm could well decide the title, as well as give a psychological advantage ahead of the Men’s National League.
Suburbs are in with a chance of taking a Northern League/Chatham Cup double, achieved last season by Auckland City.
The last time they met, on April 29, the match ended in a 0-0 draw.
Saturday’s match will be another tight encounter, and for those who can’t get to Madills Farm, the stream will provide the chance to see two of the country’s best sides.
Player to watch
Bay Olympic midfielder Sean Leadley (20) will face his former club, Melville United, on Saturday, and Olympic badly need the points to stay clear of the dropzone.
Leadley, who was courted by the Phoenix academy a couple of years ago, was a regular goalscorer last season for Melville’s U-23 reserves.
He joined Olympic for this season and has scored three goals, including his side’s only goal in their 4-1 loss to Auckland United in their last game, in which Olympic finished the game with nine players.
Takapuna will play arguably their most important fixture since their promotion to the Northern League two years ago.
They face Manukau United in a bottom-of-the-table affair, and a loss will leave Takapuna stranded at least four points below their nearest rivals — worse, if Bay Olympic take anything from their game against Melville.
I’m picking a desperate Takapuna will eke out a result. Say, 1-0.
Games to be played on Saturday August 5, 2023
West Coast Rangers v Western Springs
Fred Taylor Park, Whenuapai, 3pm
Birkenhead United v Auckland United
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 5.30pm
Bay Olympic v Melville United
Crum Park, Titirangi, 3pm
Eastern Suburbs v Auckland City
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 3pm
Manukau United v Takapuna
Walter Massey Park, Manukau, 3pm
Manurewa v Hamilton Wanderers
War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm
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