PREVIEW: Experience in front of goal proving to be valuable in Northern League

posted in: News, Northern League

By Jack Sharp

Age holds no barriers for Northern League marksmen Emiliano Tade (Western Springs) and Allan Pearce (West Coast Rangers).

The two strikers have quickly proven their worth with crucial goals in the opening rounds of the compeitition.

Tade (36), after moving to Springs from Auckland City, has scored four goals in three rounds, and is the co-leader of the league’s Golden Boot with Jake Mechell (Eastern Suburbs) and Jonty Bidois (Tauranga City).

Springs have a 100% record so far, with a squad that’s been reinforced over the past nine months with signings from Auckland City.

As well as Tade, Springs have also attracted defender Aidan Carey, midfielder Matt Ellis and fullback Marco Lorenz from Kiwitea Street, and the team is captained by another former Navy Blue, Reid Drake.

Forward Allan Pearce … back for another season at West Coast Rangers. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

West Coast Rangers have Pearce up front, putting paid to any suggestion that age will dampen his potency in front of goal.

He turns 41 on Sunday, the day after Rangers play Bay Olympic, and he produced a gem of a goal at Easter, snatching a stoppage time equaliser with a bicycle kick in the 2-2 draw with Manurewa.

It’s remarkable to think that Pearce earned his only All Whites cap 15 years ago, when most of his Rangers teammates were playing junior football. Full marks to him.

Game of the week

Friday night’s floodlit game is between third-placed Birkenhead United and fourth-placed Auckland United at Shepherds Park.

Just because the fixture has come early in the schedule, don’t underestimate the importance of this result when the top four teams qualify for the National League later in the year.

Both sides have strengthened in the off-season, and are finding the net.

Birkenhead have new strikers Monty Patterson (from Manurewa) and the 2023 Southern League’s top scorer Sam Philip (from Christchurch United), and United lead the competition in goals scored.

Corban Piper … back at Shepherds Park after a season in Ireland. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Two key additions are the return from overseas of midfielder Corban Piper and forward Curtis Hughes.

They both scored doubles over Easter, suggesting they have both benefitted from their time away. Piper spent a season with Irish club Wexford, while Hughes trained with Scottish club Kilmarnock.

READ MORE: Birkenhead’s Corban Piper signs for League of Ireland club Wexford >>>>

READ MORE: Birkenhead United forward Curtis Hughes lands trial with Scottish club >>>>

Auckland United have signed some promising young players over summer, with three joining from the Wellington Phoenix reserves — Charlie Beale, Ben Wallace and Joshua Tollervey.

Tollervey has scored three goals already and proved himself in the Central League, scoring four in one game last season.

United also have Codey Phoenix (19) who moved across from Birkenhead for last season’s National League competition.

With plenty at stake already in the season, the game promises to be an entertaining affair.

Auckland City’s Conor Tracey … the last line of a solid defence. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Player to watch

Conor Tracey is into his fourth season as Auckland City’s goalkeeper and his contribution to the side is often overshadowed by the team’s exploits further upfield.

After three rounds, the defending champions are already in their familiar position at the top of the table, having conceded only one goal (and that was a penalty).

Tracey (26) and City head to the Waikato on Saturday to play winless Hamilton Wanderers, another opportunity for a clean sheet.

Bold prediction

Manurewa and Melville United have both had difficult starts to their season, and are yet to show in which half of the table they’re likely to end up.

Melville have big Jack McGovern — their goalkeeper-turned-striker — back from suspension after his red card in the Waikato derby against Wanderers.

Manurewa will have Jerson Lagos in the line-up after his move north from Melville United, and he’s already emerging as one of Rewa’s most dangerous players.

Former Melville United player Jergon Lagos (left) … will face his former club on Saturday. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / Phototek.

It’ll be a hotly-contested match and I’ll pick Manurewa to make good use of their home advantage against the leaky Melville defence (nine goals conceded in three outings). Let’s say a Rewa win with a two-goal margin.

Last week, Jonno Ross boldly predicted Tauranga City would be on seven points by the end of Easter. Instead, they sit on three points after losses to Auckland United and Auckland City. 


Game to be played on Friday April 5, 2024

Birkenhead United v Auckland United
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 7pm

Games to be played on Saturday April 6, 2024

Bay Olympic v West Coast Rangers
Olympic Park, New Lynn, 3pm

East Coast Bays v Western Springs
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm

Manurewa v Melville United
Manurewa War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm

Eastern Suburbs v Tauranga City
Madills Farm, Auckland, 3pm

Hamilton Wanderers v Auckland City
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 5.30pm


Want to watch highlights from three Northern League games played over Easter?

WATCH: Highlights available from three Northern League matches >>>>

Jack Sharp

Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football. He’s filling in this week for our usual Northern League writer Jonno Ross.

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