Remaining fixtures pose risks and opportunities for Men’s National League rivals

posted in: Men's National League, News

By Jack Sharp

Defending champions Auckland City lead the Men’s National League by four points but they might not have it all their way in the rush to clinch grand final places.

Of the main contenders, the Navy Blues have arguably the most demanding run-in over the remaining five rounds.

They have to play Central League champions Wellington Olympic, Southern League supremos Christchurch United and face local derbies against high-flying Auckland United and arch rivals Eastern Suburbs.

City have the advantage of playing their nearest rivals at Kiwitea Street, a fortress for the national champions in recent seasons.

In the four rounds played, City might have shown a glimpse of their Achilles heel, with slow starts.

Certainly, head coach Albert Riera has acknowledged it’s an issue, warning his side not to start slowly in their latest game, against Cashmere Technical.

READ MORE: Auckland City coach Albert Riera wary of slow start against Tech >>>>

Despite that, City fell behind the Christchurch visitors and trailed 0-1 with only 12 minutes of normal time left.

City’s experience, and depth of squad, came to the rescue with goals scored in the 78th (Tong Zhou) and 90th minutes (an Emiliano Tade penalty), and then two minutes into stoppage time (Liam Gilliam).

Main photo (file): Auckland City’s Emiliano Tade scored from the penalty spot in the 90th minute to put his side ahead for the first time in their match against Cashmere Technical. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

All three goals were scored off the bench.

Of City’s nine goals in the competition, seven have been scored in the last half-hour.

Don’t write off Napier City Rovers

If Auckland City have a difficult fixture schedule to come, Napier City Rovers could finish with better form than their current midtable position might suggest.

Sure, they are six points behind leaders Auckland City but they are only two points off second spot.

While there are no easy fixtures in this competition, Rovers only have to face two of the top five sides in their remaining games.

A rough measure of the strength of opposition to come is to aggregate the combined goal difference of teams to play.

On that basis, Rovers’ remaining opponents have a combined goal difference of -1, which compares favourably against the run-ins faced by their rivals.

Who plays who

With five rounds left, here’s who the grand final contenders have yet to play:

Auckland City

Opponents’ combined GD: +4

Eastern Suburbs (a)
Auckland United (h)
Petone (a)
Wellington Olympic (h) 
Christchurch United (h)

Wellington Olympic

Opponents’ combined GD: 0

Auckland United (a)
Petone (h)
Christchurch United (h)
Auckland City (a)
Phoenix Reserves (h)

Auckland United

Opponents’ combined GD: +4

Wellington Olympic (h)
Auckland City (a)
Phoenix Reserves (h)
Manurewa (a)
Napier City Rovers (h)

Christchurch United

Opponents’ combined GD: +4

Petone (h)
Napier City Rovers (h)
Wellington Olympic (a)
Cashmere Technical (h)
Auckland City (a)

Napier City Rovers

Opponents’ combined GD:-1

Manurewa (h)
Christchurch United (a)
Cashmere Technical (a)
Eastern Suburbs (h)
Auckland United (a)

Results — Round 4

Games played on Saturday October 14, 2023

Auckland City 3 (Tong Zhou 78′, Emiliano Tade 90′, Liam Gillion 90+2′)
Cashmere Technical 1 (Lyle Matthysen 67′)

READ: Auckland City’s match programme for Cashmere Technical game >>>>

Petone 0
Auckland United 1 (Oliver Middleton 4′)

Christchurch United 1 (Dan MacLennan 75′)
Manurewa 2 (Nicolas Bobadilla 26′, Monty Patterson 70′)

READ: Christchurch United’s match programme for Manurewa game >>>>

Wellington Olympic 2 (Gianni Bouzoukis 10′, Gavin Hoy 87′)
Eastern Suburbs 2 (Aaryan Raj 22′, Kingsley Sinclair 42′)

READ: Wellington Olympic’s match programme for Eastern Suburbs game >>>>

Wellington Phoenix Reserves 0
Napier City Rovers 1 (Deri Corfe 49′ pen)

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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