Promotion hopefuls need to keep nerve in Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship games

By Jonno Ross

Competition is so tight in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship that any team can beat any other on the right day … with the exception of Waiheke United who are yet to win this season.

As a result, league table rankings are changing each week as a pack of clubs chase leaders East Coast Bays, pushing for promotion to the Northern League.

This weekend’s fixtures provide plenty of opportunities for upsets, dropped points and more reshuffling of a congested league table.

Ngaruawahia United’s Reuben Henderson has been in top form this season, scoring nine goals in the Championship. Photo: Andrew Skinner / Phototek.

Game of the week

Ngaruawahia United made sure they remained in the hunt for promotion with their stubborn performance last week against promotion hopefuls Mount Albert Ponsonby.

After going down to 10 men with 20 minutes left, the Green Machine dug deep and scored on the break in the 88th minute, only to concede a minute later. The end score was 2-2.

Ngaruawahia will look for revenge on Hibiscus Coast, who took the three points in the reverse fixture with a 1-0 win.

A win for Ngaruawahia will keep them in the promotion race, but a loss would see them having to make up significant ground on the leading pack.

Hibiscus Coast got another win under their belts last week with a 5-0 win over the bottom-of-the-table side Waiheke United.

Though that was just their second win in nine games, they are only four points off a promotion spot, BUT… the last time they beat a team above them in the league, was against this weekend’s opponents.

Hibiscus Coast need to redisover their form from the first half of the season, or they risk finishing the season as a mid-table team.

Trent Mayes … quick hat-trick last weekend.

Players to watch

Trent Mayes got himself a hat-trick in 17 minutes in Hibiscus Coast’s 5-0 win against Waiheke United last weekend.

He faces the league’s fourth-best defence in Ngaruawahia United, so he will need to be clinical in the opportunities he may have.

Mayes (28) scored the only goal of the game against Ngaruawahia in their last meeting.

Last week’s player to watch was Thomas Page from North Shore United, and he pulled through. He opened the scoring in the 29th minute, helping his team to a 3-1 win over Metro. All four goals in that game were scored in the space of 21 minutes.

Page (18) has a task on his hands this week — his side is playing the best defence in the league, East Coast Bays.

Will he make it five goals from five games?

Bold prediction

I think North Shore United could pull off another upset against East Coast Bays and clog up the upper half of the table.

In the reverse fixture, United won 2-0, handing Bays their first defeat of the season.

I think they’ll do it again on Saturday, and I predict a 2-1 scoreline in favour of the visitors.

Last week, I predicted North Shore would beat Metro 4-1. United won 3-1.


Games to be played on Saturday August 5, 2023

Waiheke United v Tauranga City
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke, 3pm

East Coast Bays v North Shore United
North Harbour Stadium, Albany, 3pm

Metro v Northern Rovers
Phyllis St Reserve, Mt Albert, 3pm

Ellerslie v Onehunga Mangere United
Ngahoe Reserve, St Johns, 3pm

Ngaruawahia United v Hibiscus Coast
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, 3pm

Fencibles United v Mount Albert Ponsonby
William Green Domain, Pakuranga, 6pm

Jonno Ross

Friends of Football writer Jonno Ross is a former New Zealand U-20 goalkeeper who is the first team manager for Mount Albert Ponsonby. He supports the All Whites, the Football Ferns, the Wellington Phoenix and Arsenal.

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