PREVIEW: Home advantage could help sway Southern Conference fixtures

By Jack Sharp

Home advantage could be an important factor in this weekend’s round six of the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference.

In all four fixtures, the home side is hosting a team further down the ladder.

On form, there’s every chance the wins will go the way of the home sides.

Cambridge captain Jack Portegys (left) challenges Hamilton Wanderers striker Derek Tieku in pre-season.

Game of the week

Clearly the standout teams of the competition in the opening five rounds, leaders Cambridge host Otumoetai at John Kerkhof Park in what’s likely to be a crucial game when the title is decided by the end of August.

These are the two unbeaten sides in the competition; well-organised, well-coached and with depth in their squads.

But only one of them can take the title and qualify for the chance to seek promotion to the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship through an end-of-season play-off against the Northern Conference champions.

If early form is a true indication, it already looks like a two-club race, and Saturday’s meeting is the first of three they’ll play in the Conference schedule.

Luck of the draw means two of the fixtures will be at Cambridge (Saturday’s game and on August 24), while one will be at Otumoetai’s Fergusson Park (July 6).

Nine points on offer and one of these sides can take the early advantage this weekend.

Player to watch

Jordy Shaw.

After a successful playing career as a capable defender in the Northern League for Waikato clubs Melville United and Hamilton Wanderers, Jordy Shaw made the switch to Cambridge to further his ambitions as a coach.

Last season, he led the Reds oh-so-close to the Southern Conference title, missing out to Waikato Unicol after progressively improving his side through the season.

This year, Cambridge were four wins from four games, going into last weekend’s Waipa derby against winless Te Awamutu.

But Te Awamutu were leading 1-0 into the second half when Shaw made his best coaching decision of the day.

He brought himself on as a sub, in the 54th minute, and set about stirring up his side. He copped a yellow card in the 67th minute, and then scored twice as Cambridge came roaring home with a 4-1 victory.

As an onfield leader, Shaw’s still got what it takes.

Bold prediction

Home advantage will give Cambridge an edge against Otumoetai and I suspect the game will produce plenty of goals.

Both sides are scoring at the rate of almost four a game, and both sides have capable goalscorers.

I’ll tip 3-2 to Cambridge.

Last week, I predicted Papamoa would take advantage of home ground conditions and beat Claudelands Rovers by a couple of goals. Rovers didn’t read that script and returned to Hamilton with three points and 3-1 win.

Krishaant Singh (7) … has scored five goals for Claudelands Rovers since signing from Cambridge. Photo credit: Rachel Lilburn.

Golden Boot

8 — Jack Boland (Otumoetai)
7 — Bailey Webster (Cambridge)
5 — Andrew Cooper (Papamoa), Kjay Morehu (Waikato Unicol), Krishaant Singh (Claudelands Rovers), Henry Stephen (Claudelands Rovers), Jack Connor (Cambridge), Steffano Riley (Ngongotaha Lakes)


Games to be played on Saturday May 4, 2024

Taupo v Waikato Unicol
Crown Park, Taupo, 3pm

Cambridge v Otumoetai
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm

Claudelands Rovers v Ngongotaha Lakes
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 3pm

Papamoa v Te Awamutu
Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa, 5pm

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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