Barren year has Waiheke United set to drop from NRFL Men’s Championship

By Jonno Ross

Struggling Waiheke United have gone a full year without tasting victory and look set to confirm their relegation from the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship this weekend.

They face Onehunga Mangere United on Saturday and a loss will remove any mathematical possibility that Waiheke might survive the drop.

It will mean back-to-back relegations for the team, having fallen from the Northern League last year.

At the other end of the table, a three-way chase for the title continues, while five teams still have hopes of clinching a promotion spot.

Colby Brennan (right) … scored a hat-trick for Tauranga City last weekend. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / Phototek.

Game of the week

The pressure goes on North Shore United this weekend as they face title challengers Tauranga City.

Now fifth, and six points behind Tauranga, a loss would end any remaining hopes of earning promotion, and a draw won’t do them any favours either.

Shore need maximum points from their remaining games, and heaps of luck to go their way with teams above them dropping points.

United’s form over the second half of the season has improved immensely — they are undefeated in their last six games, but they may have left their run a little bit too late.

Last time out, they beat previous leaders East Coast Bays 1-0, thanks to a 50th-minute goal from Thomas Page, his fifth goal in three games since joining the team.

Shore need that sort of form from Page and his teammates to have any chance of beating a Tauranga team who seem unbeatable at the moment.

North Shore United’s Tinashe Marowa breaks up the wing in their recent game against Metro. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / Phototek.

Tauranga City have lost only once in their last 10 league outings and are perfectly poised to make the jump to Northern League next season.

Despite having the longest road trip of their season last weekend — a 540km round-trip to Hibiscus Coast’s Stanmore Bay Park, City enjoyed a 3-0 victory, thanks to a hat-trick from Colby Brennan (21).

From the first whistle till the last, Tauranga threatened the opposing defence, who should be grateful they only conceded three goals.

The Tauranga steam train doesn’t look like stopping its momentum any time soon, and it’s looking like the boys from the Bay of Plenty have learned lessons from last season, where they missed out on promotion by 3 points.

They seem determined for history not to repeat itself.

Player to watch

East Coast Bays’ Dylan Stansfield was the player who took the bull by the horns last weekend. He added two more goals to his tally to make it 12 league goals for the season, just two behind the league’s top scorer, Stjepan Kovacic, and I fancy him to notch again against Northern Rovers this week.

We have competition for the league title, and the Golden Boot on our hands, and both could take till the final day of the season to be decided.

Bold prediction

Sad times for Waiheke United.

Come Saturday afternoon, it will have been one year and six days since they last won a league game — a 2-0 win against North Shore United.

Since then, they have conceded 66 times, and scored 15 goals in 21 games.

My prediction this week is that Onehunga Mangere will beat Metro, and Ngaruawahia United will beat Waiheke, therefore making it mathematically impossible for the Islanders to survive the drop.

Last week, I predicted East Coast Bays would beat Onehunga Mangere 4-0. I was close again. Bays won 4-1. I also predicted that out of the three games last week, there would be an upset result … Ngaruawahia let two points slide and the chance to go third in the league when they drew against Fencibles 1-1.


Games to be played on Saturday August 19, 2023

Mount Albert Ponsonby v Ellerslie
Anderson Park, Mt Albert, 3pm

Onehunga Mangere United v Metro
Mangere Domain, Mangere, 3pm

Northern Rovers v East Coast Bays
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm

North Shore United v Tauranga City
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm

Hibiscus Coast v Fencibles United
Stanmore Bay Park, Whangaparaoa, 3pm

Ngaruawahia United v Waiheke United
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, 3pm

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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