PREVIEW: Even contests expected in Lotto NRFL Women’s Premiership round

By Joan Grey

The chase for Lotto NRFL Women’s Premiership glory intensifies this weekend with three electric Friday night fixtures, rounding out the first of the season’s three round-robins.

With the top four teams squaring off and the bottom four teams going head-to-head, round seven this weekend is primed for four evenly contested clashes.

Last weekend, Auckland United surged into the lead, defeating former frontrunners West Coast Rangers 3-1.

The new leaders will face a tough test against fourth-placed Western Springs on Friday evening.

Rene Wasi … scored a double in Auckland United’s 3-1 win against West Coast Rangers. Photo / Phototek.

Meanwhile, an important win over Western Springs last weekend saw fifth-placed Fencibles United narrow their gap to the top four cluster, to just one point.

Fencibles may be able to bridge the divide, depending on their result against Hibiscus Coast at North Harbour on Friday night.

Game of the week

With no points on the table after six rounds, pressure is mounting on Hamilton Wanderers to preserve their premiership status.

The Wanderers, coached by Derek Tieku, Hamilton Wanderers’ star striker in the men’s Northern League, have struggled against the strength of Auckland’s teams this season.

As the Waikato-Bay of Plenty region’s sole remaining premiership team, Wanderers’ potential relegation may raise questions about the way forward for women’s football in the Waikato.

This weekend presents a potential lifeline for Wanderers as they face seventh-placed Ellerslie at Michael’s Ave.

Ellerslie have also endured a sluggish start to this season, but their recent shock 2-1 victory over third-placed Eastern Suburbs hints they may be hitting their stride.

READ MORE: Ellerslie upset Eastern Suburbs to claim first win of Women’s Premiership season >>>>

For both sides, Sunday’s match marks a pivotal point to turn their fortunes around.

Players to watch

Mikaela Bangalan. Photo credit: Joan Grey.

Full-back Mikaela Bangalan (16) is an explosive force down Fencibles’ flanks.

The young talent, recently selected for the New Zealand U-17 camp, can drive into space to create attacking opportunities and make crisp tackles to shut down attacks.

After previously playing for Bucklands Beach, Bangalan joined Fencibles for the 2022 season.

Hibiscus Coast will need to keep tabs on Bangalan on Friday night.

Meanwhile, accomplished striker Bree Johnson (23) has yet to make her debut for new club West Coast Rangers.

Rangers announced her signing from Auckland United ahead of last weekend’s clash between the clubs.

READ MORE: West Coast Rangers sign striker from rivals on eve of their top-of-table clash >>>>

However, Johnson did not take the field at Keith Hay Park, and may well make her first appearance for Rangers in Friday’s game against Eastern Suburbs.

By coincidence, her last appearance for Auckland United was in their 2-2 draw with Suburbs.

Bold prediction

Friday night promises high stakes when second-placed West Coast Rangers and third-placed Eastern Suburbs meet at Fred Taylor Park.

Neither team can afford to drop points in pursuit of new leaders Auckland United.

The two sides have similar goal differences suggesting similar strength in defence and attack.

I’ll sit on the fence and predict a 1-1 stalemate.

Golden Boot

7 — Sofia Garcia (Eastern Suburbs), Zoe Benson (Eastern Suburbs)
6 — Rene Wasi (Auckland United), Shannon Henson (West Coast Rangers)
5 — Danica Urlich-Beech (Hibiscus Coast)
4 — Charlotte Roche (Auckland United)
3 — Maisy Dewell (West Coast Rangers), Megan Lee (Western Springs)


Games to be played on Friday May 3, 2024

West Coast Rangers v Eastern Suburbs
Fred Taylor Park, Whenuapai, 7.30pm

Western Springs v Auckland United
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 7.30pm

Hibiscus Coast v Fencibles United
North Harbour Stadium, Albany, 7.30pm

Game to be played on Sunday May 5, 2024

Ellerslie v Hamilton Wanderers
Michaels Ave, Ellerslie, 3pm

Joan Grey

Friends of Football writer Joan Grey loves playing and writing about football.

More football stories