The pressure is on already in the Men’s National League — and it’s only the second round of games this weekend.
But with a competition restricted to nine games, it’s all too easy to lose a couple of early games and become detached from the group chasing Grand Final spots.
One of the competition’s early favourites, Eastern Suburbs, lost their opener 1-0 to Christchurch United and now have to play local rivals Auckland United who beat Cashmere Technical 2-1.
Another loss would see the Lilywhites six points off the pace.
Last season’s finalists, Auckland City and Wellington Olympic, dropped only five points in the nine-round competition.
In Round 2, four games go ahead on Saturday, which Christchurch United hosting the Wellington Phoenix Reserves in a lunchtime match at the United Sports Centre.
Fans of live streaming can watch national league football from 12.30pm till 8pm on Saturday, if they choose.
There’s only one game on Sunday, when defending champions Auckland City play newcomers Manurewa at Kiwitea St.
Manurewa coach Paul Marshall returns to his former club for the match.
The Navy Blues trounced an under-strength Rewa squad 7-0 in June but found it more difficult in late August when they needed an own goal and a late Angus Kilkolly goal to claim a 2-0 victory.
All the same, the TAB rates Manurewa $9.00 longshots for Sunday’s game.
Main photo: Manurewa are back in the national league but face defending champions Auckland City on Sunday.
Player to watch
Melville United’s promising midfielder Ry McLeod (19) has joined Napier City Rovers for the National League.
Straight from his appearance for Melville in the Chatham Cup final, McLeod went into the Rovers starting line-up last weekend for their 3-0 win against Petone.
The former Tauranga City youngster has played futsal for the Bay of Plenty Surge. His exposure to top-level football is boosting his development, and Rovers seems a good fit for him.
— Jack Sharp
Petone didn’t have much fortune last week against Napier City Rovers, suffering a concerning 3-0 defeat. However, they’ve been strong at home this season, winning their last three, and I think will get their first point on the board with a draw against Cashmere Technical.
— Logan Smith
I’m predicting a high-scoring game between Wellington Olympic and Napier City Rovers, with Olympic coming away with the win. But if Napier can contain the home side’s attack, they have what it takes to cause an upset. The stage is set for an entertaining clash.
— Luke Austin
Games to be played on Saturday September 30, 2023
Men’s National League
Christchurch United v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
United Sports Centre, Christchurch, 12.30pm
Wellington Olympic v Napier City Rovers
Martin Luckie Park, Berhampore, 1pm
Petone v Cashmere Technical
Petone Memorial Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm
Auckland United v Eastern Suburbs
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 6pm
Game to be played on Sunday October 1, 2023
Auckland City v Manurewa
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3pm