PREVIEW: Title chasers start to gather behind Northern Conference leaders

By Jack Sharp

Close results in recent rounds have turned the Lotto NRFL Northern Conference into an even affair, with a pack of four clubs stalking leaders Waitemata.

None of the eight Conference clubs remain in the Chatham Cup so a full round of league matches goes ahead this weekend.

Game to watch

Bucklands Beach host league leaders Waitemata in a match that could turn the title chase into a five-team battle.

If Bucklands Beach take the three points, they’ll not only catch the leading bunch but also give hope to Waiheke United, Northland and Albany United — all clubs with claims for the title in what’s turning out to be an extremely competitive division.

Bucklands Beach gave Waiheke United their second loss of the season last time out, beating them 3-2 with a stoppage-time goal from Sander Waterland, who seems to be regaining his goalscoring form.

Waitemata beat winless Oratia United 3-0 last round, as expected, but could find Bucklands Beach a handful.

It’ll be tight.

Bold prediction

Third-placed Northland should be expected to win against lowly Beachlands Maraetai, especially on home turf at Trigg Arena

But this might be the week for Beachlands Maraetai to catch Northland on the hop.

Last weekend, Northland were out of sorts, trailing 3-0 to Albany United with only 15 minutes left. Though they grabbed two late goals, they also lost Milan Clarke and Ethan Carter to red cards.

Both those players will be sidelined this weekend and if Beachlands Maraetai stay in the game long enough, they could pinch a point or better.

Last week I foresaw a goalfest and predicted the four fixtures would average more than four goals a game, despite a season so far dominated by tight defences and low scores. The teams did the right thing and scored 17 goals, an average of 4.25 goals per game. 

Golden Boot

7 — Mark Giles (Beachlands Maraetai)
5 — James Chamberlain-Barlow (Albany United), Josh Smith (Bucklands Beach), Sander Waterland (Bucklands Beach)
4 — Adam Hargood (Waitemata), Nico Vanina (Waiheke United), Shane Tanner (Waitemata)

Fixtures

Games to be played on Saturday June 15, 2024

Te Atatu v Oratia United
Te Atatu Peninsula Park, Te Atatu, 3pm

Waiheke United v Albany United
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke, 3pm

Northland v Beachlands Maraetai
Trigg Arena, Whangarei, 3pm

Bucklands Beach v Waitemata
Lloyd Elsmore Park, Pakuranga, 3pm

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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