By Jonno Ross
Forty years after being crowned national champions, Manurewa are edging closer to regaining their status as a National League club.
Promoted to the Northern League this year, the South Auckland club are pushing for the fourth qualifying spot and can stake strong claims with a win this weekend over nearest challengers Western Springs.
Unbeaten leading pair Auckland City and Eastern Suburbs have already made sure of their Men’s National League spots, while only a major catastrophe would prevent third-placed Auckland United from joining them.
The fourth vacancy is tantalisingly close for Manurewa.
Game of the week
Manurewa have refound their form at the perfect time.
After a flying start, they looked to be crumbling with mid-season form of one win in seven, and lacking in the goals apartment. They have since won back-to-back games against Takapuna and Hamilton Wanderers.
They comfortably won both, scoring four goals in both games and conceding one.
The return of Nico Bobadilla has been a boost — he’s found the net three times since his return from a 10-week suspension, making it 10 league goals for the season.
If Manurewa can pick up the three points like they did in the reverse fixture, where they beat Western Springs 3-1, they will move seven points clear in 4th position, and have one foot firmly in the National League with three games remaining.
A fairytale finish beckons for the South Auckland side, whose climb up the ranks from Lotto NRFL First Division has been impressive.
For Western Springs, this weekend is do or die. They must win to retain any real shot at National League qualification.
A win would keep them very much in the mix, and just one point behind fourth spot. A loss would see them clutching at straws and praying for a miracle that Manurewa slip up in the remaining fixtures.
Springs missed a golden opportunity last weekend against West Coast Rangers, where they only managed a 1-1 draw — a game they were expected to win.
If Springs can perform like they did when they knocked Auckland City out of the Chatham Cup, they are in with a real chance for a top four finish.
Player to watch
Derek Tieku ended his five-game goal drought last weekend in Hamilton Wanderers’ 4-1 loss to Manurewa. He can add to his 17-goal tally for the season this week against a Manukau side struggling at the foot of the table.
This week I predict the remaining Men’s National League places will be as good as done.
I think Manurewa will get the job done over Western Springs with a 3-2 win, sending them seven points clear in 4th spot with three games to go.
Games to be played on Saturday August 12, 2023
Takapuna v Auckland City
Taharoto Park, Takapuna, 3pm
Eastern Suburbs v Bay Olympic
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 3pm
Auckland United v West Coast Rangers
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 3pm
Hamilton Wanderers v Manukau United
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 3pm
Manurewa v Western Springs
War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm
Birkenhead United v Melville United
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 5.30pm
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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