PREVIEW: Early season form reversals create competitive Northern Conference

By Jack Sharp

With the possible exception of leaders Waitemata, it’s starting to look like any team is capable of beating any other in this year’s Lotto NRFL Men’s Northern Conference.

Only Waitemata has a 100% record three rounds in, and only Oratia United has to win a match.

Albany United goalkeeper Nathan Irwin makes a save in last week’s game against Bucklands Beach. Photo: Phototek.

Game of the week

The battle of the beaches goes ahead at Te Puru Park on Saturday when Beachlands Maraetai host Bucklands Beach.

Both teams have underachieved pre-season expectations and sit in the bottom three places on the table after three rounds.

This game is the chance for both sides to kick into the top half of the table, with a confidence-boosting win.

Beachlands Maraetai won on the opening day of the season, coming out on top 4-3 against promoted Te Atatu.

Since then, they’ve suffered losses at home to Northland (4-1) and then at Waiheke Island (2-1).

Bucklands Beach lost their opener 2-0 at Waiheke United, then went down 2-1 at Watemata, before getting their first win of the season last round, beating Albany United 2-0.

With that sort of form, Saturday’s game could go either way.

Northland … lost their opening game but have won twice by 4-1 margins since.

Player to watch

Northland got off to an awful start this season with a 2-0 loss at home to Albany United.

Since then, things have looked a lot brighter with 4-1 wins against Beachlands Maraetai and Oratia United.

Ethan Carter, a signing from Wellington’s Victoria University, scored back-to-back doubles, accounting for half his side’s eight goals this season.

Carter (28) gets a chance to extend his run when Northland head to Te Atatu in round 3.

Bold prediction

Waitemata are the only side in the competition with a 100% winning record, having beaten Oratia United, Bucklands Beach and Te Atatu so far.

I think they’ll face a stiff challenge on Saturday when they host Albany United who slipped up last week, losing 2-0 at Bucklands Beach.

I won’t be surprised if Albany nick a point or better when they take on the league leaders.

Last week, I predicted Albany would beat Bucklands Beach but it would be tight. Bucklands Beach won 2-0. 

Albany’s Matias Gabriel Miranda is brought down in last week’s game against Bucklands Beach. Photo: Phototek.


Games to be played on Saturday April 20, 2024

Oratia United v Waiheke United
Parrs Park, Oratia, 3pm

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

Beachlands Maraetai v Bucklands Beach
Te Puru Park, Beachlands, 3pm

Waitemata v Albany United
McLeod Park, Te Atatu South, 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. You can show your appreciation for his work by buying him a coffee.

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