PREVIEW: Crucial clash could decide whether anyone can catch Cambridge

By Jack Sharp

The round 9 fixture list has split the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference into two mini-contests this weekend.

The top four sides play each other; the bottom four meet.

As a result, the weekend’s results might provide some clarity as to whether it’s possible for anyone to catch tearaway leaders Cambridge, or fall within range of winless Te Awamutu at the foot of the table.

Game of the week

It’s not even the halfway point of the season but Saturday’s clash between Otumoetai and Claudelands Rovers looms as a must-win for both if either club still harbours any hopes of catching runaway leaders Cambridge.

Rovers (2nd) and Otumoetai (3rd) need Cambridge to stumble — which doesn’t look likely on current form — and they need to mount prolonged winning streaks.

All of this means a loss on Saturday could put paid-to title hopes, and a draw could be bad news for both.

Since losing 4-3 to Cambridge in round 3, Rovers have been the form team of the competition, winning five on the trot and starting to find their chops in front of goal.

Former Cambridge striker Krishaant Singh has now scored 11, moving into second place on the Golden Boot table, while Henry Stephen has found the net seven times.

Otumoetai started their season well enough but were overwhelmed 6-1 by Cambridge in round 6 and then lost 2-1 to local rivals Papamoa.

At home, they badly need the win against Rovers to keep alive their title hopes.

Taupo on the attack against Claudelands Rovers earlier in the season. Both sides have important games this weekend. Photo credit: Rachel Lilburn.

Player to watch

Otumoetai have relied heavily on Jack Boland for goals this season but teenager Dylan Monteiro chipped in with a couple in the side’s 4-1 win against Te Awamutu in round 8.

That took his season tally to four, as well as a clever goal he scored against Te Puke United in the Chatham Cup.

Monteiro (18) has previously contributed goals for Tauranga Boys’ College and Otumoetai’s Championship team.

He’s become a regular in Otumoetai’s line-up this season, and he could become an important factor as the season progresses.

Bold prediction

If Cambridge are going to drop points at any stage this season, it’s more likely to happen when they play a team like Taupo.

On their day, Taupo are formidable at this level but their league position reflects their tendency to drop points when they should not.

If Taupo turn up with their best game at Cambridge, they will test the league leaders.

I’ll tip a 2-2 draw.

Last round, I tipped Waikato Unicol to bounce back from a 7-1 drubbing by Cambridge, and beat Papamoa. Instead, they shared the points in a 3-3 draw, after leading 3-1 with 20 minutes to go.

Golden Boot

17 — Bailey Webster (Cambridge)
11 — Krishaant Singh (Claudelands Rovers)
10 — Jack Boland (Otumoetai)
8 — Jack Connor (Cambridge)
7 — Henry Stephen (Claudelands Rovers)
6 — Andrew Cooper (Papamoa), Josh Clarkin (Cambridge), Kjay Morehu (Waikato Unicol)


Games to be played on Saturday June 8, 2024

Cambridge v Taupo
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, 3pm

Te Awamutu v Waikato Unicol
The Stadium, Te Awamutu, 3pm

Otumoetai v Claudelands Rovers
Fergusson Park, Otumoetai, 3pm

Papamoa v Ngongotaha Lakes
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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