PREVIEW: Midweek match gives Chatham Cup heroes chance to build lead

By Jack Sharp

Chatham Cup heroes Cambridge get the chance to stretch their lead to 11 points in the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference when they tackle Papamoa under lights on Thursday.

The Reds will still be pumped up after their 2-1 upset win in the cup against Northern League side Bay Olympic, and playing their league match in midweek will give their players chance for a weekend off.

Going into Thursday’s game, Cambridge have a 100% winning record in the league to go with their advance to the fourth round of the Chatham Cup — the first time the club has got that far in its 76-year history.

Cambridge will host OFC Champions League winners Auckland City in the last 16 of the cup, on Saturday July 6.

However, the side will be without leading scorer Bailey Webster who is on the long-term injury list with a broken leg.

Game of the week

Defending champions Waikato Unicol host Claudelands Rovers on Saturday, with the visitors chasing their seventh league win on end.

It’s looking increasingly likely that Rovers will become the last remaining threat to Cambridge’s title hopes.

But they’ll need to keep winning, especially against teams like Unicol, to stay in with a chance.

Rovers, with former Cambridge coach Paul Richardson at the helm, have found their mojo over the past two months, winning well against the lower teams, and finding ways to win against the better sides such as Otumoetai and Taupo.

For Rovers, Marshall Forrester, Ernest Pidoke, Thomas O’Leary and Samuel McFarlane will turn out against their former club this weekend.

Unicol are on a poor run of form. Their only win since April was against winless Te Awamutu, though they have not been thrashed except when Cambridge overran them 7-1.

Player to watch

Waikato Unicol captain Jack Imray (27) provides the much-needed experience to help last year’s champions re-establish themselves after losing many of their squad over summer.

Imray was at the heart of the title-winning side, and he’s missed only one game this season.

He’s played beside some of the country’s top players with teams such as Lower Hutt City and Miramar Rangers in the Central League.

Imray, who is also part of Unicol’s coaching team, can be the steadying influence for the side.

Bold prediction

Ngongotaha Lakes bounced back from an 8-0 drubbing by Cambridge with successive wins.

The first, a 3-2 win at Papamoa, won them the WaiBOP Federation Challenge Shield. The second win, last weekend, enabled them to defend the shield against Te Awamutu.

Though the shield isn’t on the line this weekend, Ngongotaha Lakes seem to have found their second wind, and they’ll give Otumoetai a decent game at Fergusson Park as they chase their third win on the trot.

I’m tipping they’ll get the win.

Golden Boot

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


Game to be played on Thursday June 20, 2024

Papamoa v Cambridge
Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa, 7pm

Games to be played on Saturday June 22, 2024

Te Awamutu v Taupo
The Stadium, Te Awamutu, 3pm

Otumoetai v Ngongotaha Lakes
Fergusson Park, Otumoetai, 3pm

Waikato Unicol v Claudelands Rovers
Waikato University, Hamilton, 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.

More football stories