It’s win or bust for Unicol as last game decides NRFL Southern Conference crown

By Jack Sharp

Waikato Unicol go into their last game of the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference knowing it’s win or bust for their season.

If Unicol beat Otumoetai, they will take the title, overhauling current leaders Cambridge by a single point.

With the title, Unicol will also earn the right to go into promotion play-offs with Northern Conference champions Franklin United for a spot in next year’s Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.

Draw or lose at Otumoetai, and it’s season over for Unicol, and Cambridge will lift the silverware and seek promotion.

Game of the week

Unlike Waikato Unicol, Otumoetai have nothing to lose when they line up on Saturday.

But they could provide the upset that swings the title the way of Cambridge.

For Otumoetai, it’s been a season of two halves.

Apart from a 4-1 win against Auckland’s Uni-Mount Bohemian in the Chatham Cup, most of Otumoetai’s season was dreadful.

A 12-game stretch without a win left the club in danger of relegation (and even now, the side are fourth from bottom only on goal difference).

In early August, they lost 5-2 at home to Waikato Unicol.

Since then, they’ve been a different team, taking 10 league points from a possible 12, with wins against Ngongotaha Lakes, Papamoa and third-placed Taupo.

In their unbeaten run, they’ve scored 17 and conceded only four goals.

In contrast, Unicol have been in top form all season, with just the odd hiccup.

Since their 5-2 win against Otumoetai, they’ve had comfortable wins against Te Awamutu and Papamoa and a 4-1 loss to Cambridge, a result that sent the title race to the final round.

Bold prediction

The Otumoetai-Unicol match will have the same elements of a cup tie, with both sides willing to take risks in search of the win.

Otumoetai will have home support (and the backing of anxious Cambridge supporters), and may well have a point to prove after losing 3-0 and 5-2 to Unicol in their previous meetings.

I think this could be a game with plenty of goals, and could go close. I’m picking Unicol to get home by the barest of margins, and late in the match.

Last week, I predicted Cambridge and Unicol would both win to send the title race to the final game. Cambridge beat Ngongotaha Lakes 4-1, while Unicol beat Papamoa 5-0.


Games to be played on Saturday September 9, 2023

Otumoetai v Waikato Unicol
Fergusson Park, Otumoetai, 3pm

Claudelands Rovers v Papamoa
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 3pm

Jack Sharp

Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.

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