PREVIEW: Manukau United aim to make ground on NRFL Championship leaders

By David Larkin

Third-placed Manukau United face top-of-the-table Fencibles United in an important Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship game for both of their promotion hopes.

A win can keep the South Auckland club in touch with Fencibles and in-form Ngaruawahia United.

Hot on the heels of Fencibles, second-placed Ngaruawahia are chasing their seventh league win in a row.

The Waikato side will travel to struggling Takapuna but will be without two first-team regulars and their trainer.

Roman Yair Perez and Tesco Grunwald have one-game suspensions after picking up red cards in their Chatham Cup loss to Auckland United on King’s Birthday Monday.

Ngaruawahia trainer Anibal Paris San Martin also copped a 12-game suspension for his actions from the sideline towards an official during the same cup tie.

Takapuna will be looking to redeem themselves after handing Franklin United their first point of the season in the last round.

They did have a well-timed bye last week, though, having already been knocked out of the Chatham Cup.

Having finally picked up their first league point, bottom-placed Franklin United will target more points as they face a faltering Onehunga Mangere United.

Paul Marshall’s Onehunga Mangere have struggled to win recently, with three consecutive draws in the league.

They were unable to hold the lead in their last two, conceding second half equalisers in both matches.

Metro’s Sam Freeman playing against Mt Albert Ponsonby in the last round. Photo: Regan Dewar /Phototek.

Fifth-placed Northern Rovers have lost form recently, with three successive draws. They were knocked out of the Chatham Cup last weekend in a brutal 7-0 loss to Northern League leaders Western Springs.

Rovers face Metro, whose season-opening two wins were followed by eight games without tasting victory.

Mt Albert Ponsonby have certainly fixed their leaky defence recently, conceding only one goal in their last three outings. The problem is they’ve only scored once in those games and drew all three.

They get their chance to end that streak when they encounter Ellerslie, who have been through a tough run of fixtures, losing to the league’s top sides.

Hibiscus Coast has been in good form recently, beating leaders Fencibles before two goalless draws against higher-placed teams. They’ve also progressed to the third round of the Chatham Cup, coming from behind to beat Northern Conference club Bucklands Beach.

They will play an improving North Shore United on Saturday.

Shore’s latest form includes a big win against Franklin, a Chatham Cup win against neighbours Takapuna and a draw with Onehunga Mangere United, before a creditable cup loss to Northern League side Melville United.

Manukau United … can close the gap on leaders Fencibles United with a win on Saturday. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Game of the week

Fencibles United will need to pick themselves up after getting knocked out of the Chatham Cup last week by Tauranga City.

They lead Manukau United by seven points, and a win will push them well clear.

Manukau have been disappointing in recent games, exiting the Chatham Cup (0-1 to Bay Olympic) last weekend and suffering a narrow defeat to in-form Ngaruawahia the week before.

Both sides have lost only once in the league this season.

Fencibles suffered a 2-4 defeat to Hibiscus Coast in round 7, while Manukau’s loss to Ngaruawahia has been their only blip.

Player to watch

Fencibles have benefitted from the hot form of their striker Kodie Nicol who has scored a brace in each of his last two league games.

His season total stands at 10 goals from 10 rounds of competition.

Nicol has surpassed teammate Daniel Bunch on the top scorer’s list and sits second behind Ngaruawahia’s Darius Palma.

Nicol forged his way into the Fencibles first team early last season after impressing in their under 17’s team. He made a few appearances off the bench before breaking into the starting line-up and has been a mainstay this season.

He’s helped his club reach new heights in 2024 as they have made a dramatic improvement to their performances last season which left them with an 8th placed finish.

Bold predictions

It’s hard to see Ngaruawahia’s winning streak coming to an end this weekend as they take on a Takapuna team in a patch of poor form.

I’m picking they’ll cruise to an easy victory and win by at least three goals.

I’m also going to pick a bit of an upset — I reckon Metro can end their eight-game winless run against Rovers on Saturday.

Metro have threatened recently with some hard-fought draws against top-half teams, and Rover’s current form suggests a golden opportunity for them to break their unwanted streak.

Last week, Jonno Ross predicted Ngaruawahia and Manukau would finish as a 2-2 draw. He was almost correct – Ngaruawahia came away with a 2-1 win

Golden Boot

15 — Darius Palma (Ngaruawahia United)
10 — Kodie Nicol (Fencibles United)
9 — Daniel Bunch (Fencibles United)
6 — Brodie Putt (North Shore United), Dylan Horgan (Manukau United), Hamsa Moosvi (Manukau United), Sam Freeman (Metro)
5 — Aston Burns (Fencibles United), Joao Moreira (Takapuna), Levi Clark (Ngaruawahia United), Sam Tutton (Mt Albert Ponsonby)


Game to be played on Friday June 7, 2024

Onehunga Mangere United v Franklin United
Mangere Centre Park, Mangere, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Saturday June 8, 2024

Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship

Manukau United v Fencibles United
Walter Massey Park, Manukau, 3pm

Takapuna v Ngaruawahia United
Taharoto Park, Takapuna, 3pm

North Shore United v Hibiscus Coast
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm

Metro v Northern Rovers
Phyllis St, Mt Albert, 3pm

Ellerslie v Mt Albert Ponsonby
Michaels Ave, Ellerslie, 5pm

David Larkin

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

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