PREVIEW: In-form Western Springs get chance to go top in Northern League

posted in: News, Northern League

By David Larkin

Western Springs have the chance to go top of the Northern League table this weekend, as Auckland City once again have a bye due to their participation in the OFC Champions League.

City’s absence means Birkenhead United also have a bye this weekend, but there fans can look forward to the promise of a round of action-packed games.

Bay Olympic have been a bit inconsistent of late, securing a surprise victory against Auckland City and a big win against Hamilton Wanderers, before losing their last game 5-1 to Tauranga.

They have an easier match-up this week, taking on Melville United who are looking to turn around a seven-game losing streak in which they’ve conceded 31 goals.

East Coast Bays will relish the rare opportunity to play a team from the bottom half of the table, after a string of tough games, when they face West Coast Rangers.

Bays will need to start scoring if they are to find their first win of the season, though, as they were left scoreless in their previous two matches. A result here would help their case against dropping back down to the Championship.

Rangers narrowly lost to Suburbs last week after finding their first win of the season against Melville the week before.

Auckland United have lacked a bit of form this season, though they haven’t dropped points against opposition outside the top four yet. They’ll face Manurewa who are also struggling for form.

Manurewa players enjoy their late winner against Hamilton Wanderers earlier this season. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Manurewa’s season has been one of fine margins, with their last four games all being decided by one-goal margins.

A win against Auckland United will be just the push they need to boost them towards the top four, a feat they managed last season.

The loss of crucial players like Nico Bobadilla and Monty Patterson has weakened Rewa’s chances of another top four finish but new signing Eber Ramirez has certainly stepped up, with 10 goals so far this season.

Game of the week

Western Springs will go above defending champions Auckland City if they avoid a loss against Eastern Suburbs.

It may prove to be a tough proposition, though, as Suburbs are only two places behind them on the table.

Springs have won all but one game this season and are the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 3.1 goals per game.

Additionally, they have won every match they’ve played at home this season.

Suburbs have an impressive recent run of away from, winning their last three games on the road.

Suburbs will want to propel themselves into the top four and within striking distance of the three leading teams.

Their next couple of games — against bottom table dwellers Hamilton Wanderers and East Coast Bays — could also help their quest for the top four and qualification for National League football, if they manage to pick up the maximum points.

Allan Pearce … scored five goals this season, despite West Coast Rangers’ poor form. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Player to watch

Allan Pearce has struggled for minutes at West Coast Rangers this season. He started the season riding the bench but has now made his way back into the starting 11.

Despite his lack of game time, he’s the top scorer for his club, scoring five goals in nine appearances this season, of which four were off the bench.

He’ll likely need to add to his goal tally this weekend if they are to ward off fellow strugglers East Coast Bays.

It’s an important match as they’ll be looking to distance themselves from the relegation zone.

Pearce (41) has had a long career which started in England in the early 2000’s. He rose through the academy at League Two side Barnsley before transferring to Lincoln City. He came back to New Zealand to play for Waitakere in 2005 and has played here ever since, earning a single cap for the All Whites in 2008.

Making his debut for West Coast Rangers in 2021, he’s established himself as a key member of the club. He helped them gain promotion in 2022, which earned him the club’s Player of the Year award.

Tauranga City … on a good run of form. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Bold prediction

Tauranga City have been on an impressive run of form the last few weeks.

Since succumbing to a 7-1 battering by Springs in round 5, they have gone on a four-game unbeaten streak. Their latest two wins came against the two teams ahead of them on the table, Manurewa and Bay Olympic.

Their opponent this weekend are Hamilton Wanderers. They’re sitting at the bottom of the table and are still looking for their first win of the season.

I’m predicting Tauranga City will pick up the three points against them in Tauranga on Saturday and increase their unbeaten run to five.

Last week, Jonno Ross predicted Birkenhead United and Western Springs would both pick up wins. He got both predictions right — Birkenhead won 4-1 against Hamilton Wanderers and Springs also won by a score of 4-1 against Melville

Goal of the week

Haris Zeb’s goal for Birkenhead United against Hamilton Wanderers has won NZ Football’s Goal of the Week:

Golden Boot

11 — Jake Mechell (Eastern Suburbs)
10 — Emiliano Tade (Western Springs)
9 — Jonty Bidois (Tauranga City), Liam Gillion (Auckland City)
8 — Eber Ramirez (Manurewa)
7 — Corban Piper (Birkenhead United), Josh Tollervey (Auckland United)
6 — Derek Tieku (Hamilton Wanderers), Monty Patterson (Birkenhead United)


Games to be played on Saturday May 18, 2024

West Coast Rangers v East Coast Bays
Fred Taylor Park, Whenuapai, 3pm

Auckland United v Manurewa
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill 3pm

Tauranga City v Hamilton Wanderers
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 3pm

Melville United v Bay Olympic
Gower Park, Hamilton, 5pm

Western Springs v Eastern Suburbs
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 5.30pm

Auckland City v Birkenhead United
POSTPONED till July 17 due to City’s participation in OFC Champions League

David Larkin

Friends of Football writer David Larkin plays community football for Auckland club Manurewa.

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