PREVIEW: South Auckland derby to test NRF Men’s League One co-leaders

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Late goals could play a big part in Saturday’s South Auckland derby between two of the form sides in the NRF Men’s League One.

Unbeaten sides South Auckland Rangers and Papakura City meet at Rongomai Park in a game that will decide the early leadership in the competition, but could also be a telling factor when the title is decided at season’s end.

And don’t be surprised if it goes to the wire.

Brock Radich … ambition plans for back-to-back promotions.

Rangers have won both their games so far without scoring a goal earlier than the 82nd minute, and last weekend, they needed a stoppage-time winner from substitute Cole Holland to see off Central United 2-1.

Papakura scrambled home 3-1 against West Auckland last weekend, with an 86th-minute goal from substitute Kevin Escudero followed by a 90th-minute own goal.

Rangers coach Brock Radich says his side’s ability to win late says a lot about their self belief.

“Seriously, not for a minute in either of our games did I think we were going to lose,” he says.

“The players believe in themselves and they know if it’s going to be a tight game, they’ll find a way to win.”

Radich (33) joined Rangers this season after stints as a head coach or assistant coach with clubs including Eastern Suburbs, West Coast Rangers, Fencibles United, Manurewa and Hamilton Wanderers.

READ MORE: South Auckland Rangers appoint Brock Radich as men’s head coach >>>>

His aim is to lead South Auckland Rangers through back-to-back promotions and earn the club a place in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship by 2026.

Pablo Yackson … adds experience and leadership to Rangers.

“I honestly believe we have a squad this year that would be good enough to be a mid-table Championship side,” he says.

“We’re still learning to play in this (League One) competition, and we haven’t clicked yet. There’s still a lot more upside for us.”

Over summer, Radich recruited players from south and east Auckland, including a group from Fencibles United.

While Radich and many of the squad are new to the club, the first team captain is the highly experienced Pablo Yackson (38), now in his third season at Rongomai Park after spells at Metro and Manurewa.

“Geographically, we’re really well placed,” Radich says of Rangers’ Ormiston location on Te Irirangi Drive, which links south and east Auckland.

“I think the club has a lot of untapped potential and there’s a big opportunity to bring youth players through.”

The South Auckland derby will be Rangers’ first home game of the season, meaning it’s the first chance for Radich and his new signings to play in front of their own supporters.

Papakura City go into the derby also with a new coach, having appointed Peter Martin for the 2024 season.

He’s coached at Northern Premier level with Central United and Onehunga Sports.

Peter Martin … new coach at Papakura City.

READ MORE: Papakura City name Peter Martin as men’s head coach; new role for Matt Bouma >>>>

Martin has strengthened City’s squad with signings such as Matt Chant (Te Atatu), Kevin Escudero (Takapuna), Felipe Rosas Gallardo (Franklin United), Jamie Clark (Otahuhu United), Christopher Clark (Otahuhu United), Alexis Zuleta (CSD Condida, Chile), Ryan Martin (Metro) and goalkeeper Ryan Wood who joined midseason last year from Manurewa.

Unbeaten Papatoetoe to face West Auckland

While Rangers and Papakura go head-to-head, the third unbeaten side in the competition, Papatoetoe, travels to West Auckland.

West Auckland are winless, having lost to Papakura City (3-1) and to South Auckland Rangers (1-0). They dropped down from last season’s Lotto NRFL Northern Conference.

The League One’s new season entries, Mangere United and Waiuku, both have home fixtures, hosting Central United and Uni-Mount Bohemian, respectively.


Games to be played on Saturday April 20, 2024

Mangere United v Central United
Mangere Centre Park, Mangere, 3pm

Waiuku v Uni-Mount Bohemian
Massey Park, Waiuku, 3pm

West Auckland v Papatoetoe
Brains Park, Kelston, 3pm

South Auckland Rangers v Papakura City
Rongomai Park, Ormiston, 3pm

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