PREVIEW: Important match-ups at both ends of Northern League table

By David Larkin

Western Springs, Birkenhead United and Eastern Suburbs all look to add to their top four hopes this week, as Auckland City remain in Tahiti at the OFC Men’s Champions League.

Auckland City’s absence from the round provides Birkenhead with the opportunity to overtake them if they can overcome an in-form Tauranga City side.

East Coast Bays and Melville United face off, in what could turn out to be an important match in the relegation fight.

Melville held on for an upset win against Bay Olympic last week, a win that has propelled them out of the relegation zone and ended their six-game losing streak.

Bays fell to a late draw against West Coast Rangers last week after a late penalty prevented them from securing their first win of the season.

Bay Olympic coach Rudy Mozr … his side hosts Auckland United this weekend. Photo: Regar Dewar / Phototek.

Bay Olympic have suffered back-to-back defeats against teams below them on the table, and this weekend, they encounter an Auckland United side that hasn’t lost to any team outside the top four.

United managed only a point against Manurewa last week after Rewa’s Hector Echague scored a 96th-minute equaliser to foil their perfect record against teams below them.

Suburbs snatched an important point against Springs last time out and will relish the opportunity to boost their points tally as they face bottom-of-the-table Wanderers.

Wanderers have struggled this season. After 10 games, they have failed to secure a win, and have a mere two points.

Manurewa have no game this week, as they would have been Auckland City’s opponents.

Game of the week

Birkenhead had last weekend off — their game against Auckland City was postponed — but they’ll need three points on Saturday to keep pace with league leaders Western Springs, who sit three points above them.

In their latest games, Birkenhead picked up big wins against Hamilton Wanderers and Eastern Suburbs, and are currently on an eight-game unbeaten run, with their only loss this season coming against Springs in round one.

Tauranga City extended their unbeaten streak to five games with a 1-0 win against Wanderers last Saturday.

However, Tauranga have failed to gain any points against top five clubs, which they’ll need to do if they have aspirations to achieve National League football this season.

Jonty Bidois (9) … has scored nine goals in his debut Northern League season. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / Phototek.

Player to watch

Striker Jonty Bidois (19) started his season off well, scoring eight goals in his first six games.

His nine goals make him the top scorer for Tauranga City, and he’s only three short of Golden Boot leader Jake Mechell.

Bidois’ goals have dried somewhat, of late, with a one-goal return from his last four games.

Tauranga have found other ways to win, unbeaten in their last five games, but they could do with Bidois at his best against third-placed Birkenhead on Saturday.

Last season, Tauranga won promotion from the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship, with Bidois topping the Golden Boot table with an impressive tally of 22 goals.

Bold prediction

Western Springs went top of the table last weekend with their draw against Eastern Suburbs.

They have lost only once all season and have a strong chance to continue their dominant form when they face battling West Coast Rangers.

Though Rangers have improved recently, they have still struggled to put teams away. They had to rely on a late penalty from Allan Pearce last weekend to snatch a draw against Bays.

They also conceded a late goal the weekend before against Suburbs which cost them, what would’ve been a hard fought point

I’m predicting Springs will pick up the three points against Rangers at home on Saturday, and increase their lead on the table.

Last week, I predicted Tauranga City would get the three points against Wanderers. They won 1-0.

Golden Boot

12 — Jake Mechell (Eastern Suburbs)
11 — 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 — Allan Pearce (West Coast Rangers), Derek Tieku (Hamilton Wanderers), Jerson Lagos Giraldo (Manurewa), Monty Patterson (Birkenhead United)


Games to be played on Saturday May 25, 2024

East Coast Bays v Melville United
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm

Birkenhead United v Tauranga City
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 3pm

Eastern Suburbs v Hamilton Wanderers
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 3pm

Western Springs v West Coast Rangers
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 5.30pm

Bay Olympic v Auckland United
Olympic Park, New Lynn, 5.30pm

David Larkin

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

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