PREVIEW: ‘Battle of the Bridge’ heads new round of NRFL Northern Conference

By Jack Sharp

Northern Conference pacesetters Waitemata and Albany United might find it difficult to extend their perfect starts to their seasons this weekend.

With two wins from as many games, the two clubs have a three-point start on the rest of the pack in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Northern Conference.

But leaders Waitemata face local rivals Te Atatu in a game that promises to be high on emotion, and capable of producing goals.

And Albany United could find lowly Bucklands Beach hard to roll at Lloyd Elsmore Park.

Game of the week

Te Atatu … having fun as they pump up the interest in their local derby with Waitemata.

Te Atatu are enjoying the build-up ahead of their weekend clash with Waitemata, declaring it the Battle of the Bridge between Te Atatu North and Te Atatu South.

Describing their ground as the Peninsula Fortress, Te Atatu are eager to win the BotB Shield “and ultimate bragging rights”.

Nothing wrong with pumping up interest in a game of football, and full marks to Te Atatu for bringing enthusiasm to a competition in which they are newcomers, after winning promotion from last season’s NRF League One.

Waitemata have hit the ground running this season, with six points from wins against Oratia United (5-2) and Bucklands Beach (2-1).

They’ve had five different goalscorers already, and look to have a solid squad capable of giving this competition a shake this year.

Players to watch

Young goalkeeper Milan Jurasovic has stepped up to first team football from the Waitemata U-23s and he made quite a contribution in round 2, in his side’s 2-1 win against Bucklands Beach.

Jurasovic (20) saved a penalty, the difference between his team taking three points rather than one. His previous clubs include Ranui Swanson, Oratia United, Waitakere City and Ellerslie but he’s now in his third season with Waitemata.

At the other end of the pitch, English import Adam Hargood scored both Waitemata’s goals before a booking and a second half substiution.

Hargood (21) has arrived from English club Tadley Calleva, and made an immediate impression, scoring eight minutes into his Waitemata debut in their opening round win against Oratia United.

Bold prediction

Second-placed Albany United head to Pakuranga to play second-bottom side Bucklands Beach.

On the surface, it looks a home run for Albany — they have the competition’s best defence after two rounds, while Bucklands Beach have the worst record for attack.

But early season stats can be misleading, and I think the game will be closer than it might look.

I’ll still pick Albany to get the win but it’ll be tight.

Last week, I predicted Te Atatu would beat Oratia United which they did, winning 5-1.


Games to be played on Saturday April 13, 2024

Te Atatu v Waitemata
Te Atatu Peninsula Park, Te Atatu, 3pm

Northland v Oratia United
Trigg Arena, Whangarei, 3pm

Waiheke United v Beachlands Maraetai
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke, 3pm

Bucklands Beach v Albany United
Lloyd Elsmore Park, Pakuranga, 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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