PREVIEW: Pressure goes on at both ends of NRFL Men’s Championship table

By Jonno Ross

Manukau United go into round 9 as the only unbeaten team in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.

Due to their habit of drawing — they’ve shared the points three times — the club are third on the table, four points behind leaders Fencibles United, though they have a game in hand.

Gordon Paulsen’s Manukau side have done well this season, after relegation from the Northern League, and are already looking likely contenders to go back up.

This weekend, they go up against the only team in the league without a win.

Bottom-placed Franklin United, promoted to the Championship this year, are struggling, having conceded 38 goals and lost nine league and cup games in a row.

They’ve made changes to their coaching staff in an effort to reboot their season.

READ MORE: Coaching changes underway at relegation-threatened Franklin United >>>>

Manukau United players celebrate after scoring another goal against Franklin United in their 5-0 win last month. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

READ MORE: Coaching changes underway at relegation-threatened Franklin United >>>>

Game of the week

Takapuna still aren’t gelling since their relegation from last season’s Northern League.

At the start of this season, they were tipped as one of the favourites to go straight back up.

Now, they find themselves in a scrap at the wrong end of the table, desperate to stay out of the drop zone.

It’s been more than a month since Takapuna’s last win –— a 2-0 win over Ellerslie back in round 4. Since then, they have only managed one point from the last 12 available. That point came in the last league outing against rivals Northern Rovers, a 1-1 draw.

It’s a must-win for Takapuna this weekend, but confidence levels will be low.

They come up against a North Shore United team who beat them 3-1 last weekend in round one of the Chatham Cup.

This weekend brings up the North Shore derby in a row for Taka, and while 10th position appears as doom and gloom territory, they still only sit seven points behind a second-place play-off position.

If they were to lose on Saturday, they would be bumped down a place and into the relegation zone. A win could see them go as high as 7th in the league.

Takapuna’s Ben Allan (left) and North Shore United’s Brodie Putt challenge for the ball in last weekend’s Chatham Cup tie. The teams meet again on Saturday. Photo: Regan Dewar / Phototek.

North Shore United are also in table trouble.

After eight rounds, they have managed to pick up six points from a possible 24.

Confidence levels will certainly be higher than their neighbours.

For the first time this season, they’ve won back-to-back games — they beat Franklin United 6-1 in their last league outing, and won again last weekend in the Chatham Cup.

North Shore United’s Brodie Putt will hope to keep his newly found goal-scoring form going – he scored half of his team’s goals in his side’s 6-1 win against Franklin United and leads his side’s goal-scoring chart, having found the net five times thus far.

The return of Nick Petherick (19) has helped. He was a useful goal threat for Shore last season but left to join Takapuna.

If United can do the double over Takapuna this weekend, they could move out of the relegation zone and as high as 9th in the league, depending on Metro’s result against Fencibles. A loss would see them stranded in 11th place, five points short of safety, and having to play catch up.

Player to watch

Sam Freeman (20) brought his tally to six goals for the season with a hat trick in his Metro side’s Chatham Cup win against Oratia United last week.

That’s five goals in two games for the number seven, who joined Metro from English club Whitchurch United in February.

In Metro’s last league outing against Manukau United, he scored a double to earn a point in a 2-2 draw.

Freeman will look to get on the score sheet for the third game in a row when Fencibles visit this weekend.

Bold prediction

Metro’s game against Fencibles United will be interesting.

Metro got an unexpected result against Manukau United in their last League game, and Fencibles had an unexpected loss to Hibiscus Coast.

I think this one will be pretty straightforward, and I’ll tip Fencibles to get back to winning ways with a 3-0 win.

Last time out, I tried to predict the outcomes of all the fixtures being played. There were a couple of surprise results which threw my predictions out the window – I only got one prediction spot on, which was Northern Rovers to share the spoils with Takapuna. That game finished 1-1.

Dylan Horgan … has scored five goals since moving to Manukau United from Manurewa in pre-season. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Golden Boot

12 — Darius Palma (Ngaruawahia United)
7 — Daniel Bunch (Fencibles United)
6 — Kodie Nicol (Fencibles United), Sam Freeman (Metro)
5 — Aston Burns (Fencibles United), Brodie Putt (North Shore United), Dylan Horgan (Manukau United), Hamza Moosvi (Manukau United), Sam Tutton (Mt Albert Ponsonby)


Games to be played on Friday May 17, 2024

Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship

Onehunga Mangere United v Northern Rovers
Mangere Centre Park, Auckland, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Saturday May 18, 2024

Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship

Hibiscus Coast v Mt Albert Ponsonby
Stanmore Bay Park, Whangaparaoa, 3pm

Ellerslie v Manukau United
Michaels Ave Reserve, Auckland, 3pm

Takapuna v North Shore United
Taharoto Park, Auckland, 3pm

Metro v Fencibles United
Phyllis Street Reserve, Auckland, 3pm

Franklin United v Ngaruawahia United
Bledisloe Park, Pukekohe, 5pm

READ MORE: Coaching changes underway at relegation-threatened Franklin United >>>>

Jonno Ross

Friends of Football writer Jonno Ross is a former New Zealand U-20 goalkeeper who is the first team manager for Mount Albert Ponsonby. He supports the All Whites, the Football Ferns, the Wellington Phoenix and Arsenal.

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