By Jack Sharp
Waikato Unicol can win the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference this weekend if they beat nearest rivals Cambridge.
The match-up between the competition’s two best sides has been looming as both sides have continued to run up high-scoring wins against other sides.
Between them, the two leaders have scored 134 goals this term.
Game of the week
The showdown at Cambridge’s John Kerkhof Park has three outcomes:
- A win for Unicol will give them a conference title to go with the WaiBOP Premiership crown they won a year ago. It will also give them a berth in the promotion play-offs with the chance to go up to the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.
- A draw will delay the agony for both sides. For Cambridge to take the title, the Reds would need to win their last fixture (at Ngongotaha Lakes) and require Unicol to not win either of their remaining fixtures.
- A win to Cambridge would put them top of the table but the title would still depend on remaining fixtures, with Unicol needing to drop points against either or both Papamoa and Otumoetai.
The bottom line is that this match will become the defining point of both clubs’ seasons.
Player to watch
Waikato Unicol’s leading scorer Dominick Edwards (28) has struck form at the right time, lodging a hat-trick in last weekend’s 5-0 win against Te Awamutu.
Edwards joined Unicol this season after a couple of seasons at league rivals Claudelands Rovers, and after half a season with Melville United.
He’s scored 13 goals so far in the Conference.
Neither side deserves to lose in the big match between the competition leaders, so I’ll predict a draw which will suit Unicol.
At the other end of the table, I think Otumoetai could topple Papamoa in their local derby and that could get them off the bottom of the table, if Te Awamutu lose at home to Ngongotaha Lakes.
Last week I tipped Claudelands Rovers to end Otumoetai’s late-season run of form and to beat them by a two-goal margin or more. The game ended in a scoreless draw that puts Otumoetai within reach of catching Te Awamutu and clearing bottom spot.
Games to be played on Saturday August 26, 2023
Cambridge v Waikato Unicol
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm
Taupo v Claudelands Rovers
Crown Park, Taupo, 3pm
Te Awamutu v Ngongotaha Lakes
The Stadium, Te Awamutu, 3pm
Papamoa v Otumoetai
Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa, 3pm
Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.