PREVIEW: Northern League clubs to play double round over long weekend

posted in: News, Northern League

By Jonno Ross

Easter’s double round will test which Northern League clubs have put their pre-season preparation to best use.

Back-to-back games so early in the schedule can catch out the teams light on early season fitness, and, in particular, with the Round 3 fixtures on Easter Monday.

Probably the best indicator is to look at the teams that performed well last weekend, especially those that managed to get up for late goals.

Auckland City, Bay Olympic, Manurewa and Tauranga City all finished strongly in the opening round; don’t be surprised if they go well again.

READ MORE: Late changes to promotion/relegation rules disrupt start to season >>>>

Teams to watch

With a dozen games over the long weekend, I’m picking three teams to watch as they play two rounds of games, and I think they’ll provide entertaining games for supporters and neutrals alike.

Manurewa

Despite losing some key players in the off-season, Manurewa started their campaign with a bang last weekend, winning 3-0 against newly-promoted East Coast Bays.

Two debutants got off the mark for Rewa, with the opening goal coming from Argentinian import Eber Ramirez and a double from Jerson Lagos, a signing from Melville United.

Manurewa … a team with plenty of newcomers. Photo credit: Manurewa AFC.

Six of Rewa’s starting XI were fresh faces, while two more new signings were on the bench.

Promising signs for the South Auckland outfit, and they are a chance for taking maximum points this weekend.

They host Western Springs on Friday, but will be without Dylan Morris due to suspension, and then they head to the opposite side of Auckland on Monday to play West Coast Rangers.

Ronaldo Lopez Munoz. Photo credit: Bay Olympic.

Bay Olympic

Bay Olympic arguably came away with one of the shock results of the opening round.

They hosted Eastern Suburbs — a side that went toe to toe with Auckland City last season, and didn’t lose a single game.

Not many would have picked Olympic to get any sort of result, but they certainly silenced any cynics, and in dramatic fashion too.

Debutant Ronaldo Lopez Munoz (signed from Manurewa) opened the scoring in the fifth minute for the home side, who took a 1-0 lead at the break. Suburbs equalized in the 48th minute, and the game remained at 1-1 until the 95th minute, when captain Callum McNeil fired home to hand Suburbs their first defeat since 2022.

Olympic will look to get back-to-back victories at home when they play a wounded East Coast Bays on Friday, and then they make the short trip on Monday evening to play Western Springs.

Tauranga City

Tauranga City seem to have picked up from where they left off from last season — scoring goals for fun.

In their final home game of last season, they demolished Mt Albert Ponsonby 7-0 to win the Championship, and that devastating form has continued six months on with a 4-0 drubbing over Melville United last weekend.

Only two of their five new signings were in the starting XI, which makes these guys dangerous. They roll on the same page, and they’re a tight-knit group.

Hot form … Tauranga City’s Jonty Bidois has started the season with a hat-trick. Photo: Jackie Van Tran / Phototek.

Jonty Bidois – last season’s Championship’s Golden Boot winner — is off the mark and leading the goal-scoring charts again with yet another hat-trick.

His latest haul makes it a hat-trick of hat-tricks in successive competition games, if you include the four he scored against Onehugna Mangere and the four against Mt Albert Ponsonby in the final games of last season.

That’s 11 goals in three games – he’s an absolute weapon.

Tauranga City host Auckland United on Friday, and then make the trip to Kiwitea Street to play Auckland City on Monday.

The Links Ave game between Tauranga City and Auckland United will be streamed live and free by FIFA+.

Players to watch

Emiliano Tade was my player to watch last week, and he got off the mark on his debut for Western Springs with a goal to help his team to a 3-2 win over Birkenhead United.

Here are a few players who didn’t waste time in finding form last week:

  • Kofi Dwamena (West Coast Rangers) scored twice last week against Hamilton Wanderers.
  • Derek Tieku (Hamilton Wanderers). He was their top goal scorer last season and got off the mark against West Coast Rangers.
  • Ryan de Vries (Auckland City). Always dangerous, he added to his goal tally when he scored against Auckland United.
  • Jerson Lagos (Manurewa). Rewa’s new signing from Melville United, got a double on debut against East Coast Bays.
  • Jonty Bidois (Tauranga City). When this man is on form, he is seemingly impossible to stop. Could he be the next Alex Greive?

Bold prediction

I have to say, I’m impressed by the way Tauranga City plays. I fancy their chances at home, so I’m going to pick a 2-0 win for the home side when they host Auckland United on Friday.

Come the end of the weekend’s double header, I’m picking Tauranga will be on 7 points after also picking up a draw away at Auckland City.

Last week, I predicted the two promoted clubs would both pick up three points in their first outings of the season.

Tauranga took the points off Melville United with an emphatic 4-0 win. East Coast Bays went down 3-0 against Manurewa.

Fixtures

Games to be played on Thursday March 28, 2024

Hamilton Wanderers v Melville United
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Friday March 29, 2024

Bay Olympic v East Coast Bays
Olympic Park, New Lynn, 3pm

Tauranga City v Auckland United
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 3pm

Birkenhead United v West Coast Rangers
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 3pm

Manurewa v Western Springs
Manurewa War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm

Auckland City v Eastern Suburbs
Croatian Cultural Club, Te Atatu, 3pm

Games to be played on Monday April 1, 2024

East Coast Bays v Eastern Suburbs
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm

West Coast Rangers v Manurewa
Fred Taylor Park, Whenuapai, 3pm

Melville United v Birkenhead United
Gower Park, Hamilton, 3pm

Auckland City v Tauranga City
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3pm

Western Springs v Bay Olympic
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 5.30pm

Auckland United v Hamilton Wanderers
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 5.30pm

Standings

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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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