PREVIEW: Crucial games at both ends of Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship

By David Larkin

Important games go ahead this weekend for teams at both ends of the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.

Ngaruawahia United host Fencibles United in a top-of-the-table clash, while North Shore United and Metro face off in a match that could play a big part in the fight to avoid relegation.

North Shore and Metro both have 10 points, and defeat this weekend would leave the losers three points adrift in the relegation zone.

Metro were in prime position to break their eight-game winless run last week when they went two goals up against Northern Rovers but their opponents scored twice in added time to grab a 3-2 win.

Poor discipline didn’t help with three players sent off, Raekwon Coghlan was the first to go as he was shown a straight red card in the 59th minute.

Captain Jordan Hearn and substitute Ryan Campbell were sent off in the 88th minute after receiving second yellow cards, allowing Rovers to complete their comeback against an eight-man team.

Metro can take heart from their first-round result against North Shore, when they won comfortably 3-0 at home.

Metro’s Haylen West wins possession in his side’s recent game against Mt Albert Ponsonby. Photo: Regan Dewar / Phototek.

Onehunga Mangere United and Takapuna get the round underway on Friday night.

Onehunga Mangere will look to extend their six-match unbeaten league and Chatham Cup run against a Takapuna side who snatched a 3-3 draw against Ngaruawahia in the last round, thanks to a second-half hat-trick from Portuguese striker Joao Moreira.

Like Onehunga Mangere, Hibiscus Coast remain in the Chatham Cup, a run that will no doubt stimulate the side in mid-season.

Another win is likely this weekend as opponents Franklin United are still without a win.

The last time they met, Coast won 2-0.

Manukau United drew 2-2 against leaders Fencibles last time out, a result that keeps them in touch with second-placed Ngaruawahia.

Manukau face Mt Albert Ponsonby who have suffered a recent collapse in form. They’ve failed to record a win in their last five games and have only managed to score twice in that period.

The two clubs drew 3-3 at their last meeting.

Ellerslie ended a three-game losing streak with a narrow win against Mt Albert Ponsonby in their last league outing.

The lost 3-1 in the cup to Onehunga Mangere, and now face a Northern Rovers side on a seven-game unbeaten streak in the league.

Game of the week

Ngaruawahia United will need to beat top-of-the-table Fencibles United to give themselves a decent chance of chasing down the title.

The Waikato ‘Green Machine’ are four points behind in second place but will smell blood after Fencibles failed to beat third-placed Manukau in the last round.

Fencibles have stumbled recently, getting knocked out of the Chatham Cup before posting a 2-2 draw with Manukau.

Their match against Ngaruawahia represents a golden opportunity for Fencibles to tighten their grip on the competition’s leadership.

Ngaruawahia’s seven-game winning streak in the league ended when they squandered a three-goal lead against Takapuna to draw 3-3.

They’ll need to be on top of their game to avoid repeating the 1-0 loss they registered in this fixture at the start of the season.

One respite for them will be the return of players Roman Yair Perez and Tesco Grunwald after completion of their suspensions.

Joao Moreira playing against Auckland City for Team Wellington in the Men’s National League grand final three seasons ago. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / Phototek.

Player to watch

Joao Moreira’s stunning second-half hat trick helped his team clinch an all-important point for his club, Tauranga, last round.

Moreira (38) has really found his goalscoring touch, with five goals in his last three games.

As well as the hat-trick, he also scored the winning goal against neighbours North Shore and scored his side’s only goal in their draw against Franklin United.

Takapuna will be counting on him to help them move up the table and away from the relegation zone.

Moreira has had a lengthy career which started in his home country of Portugal 20 years ago and has taken him all over the world.

He had a spell at Auckland City between 2014-2017 before returning to New Zealand in 2020. He made the transfer to Takapuna last season from Manukau United, after stints with Miramar Rangers and Team Wellington.

Bold prediction

I’m going to pick Metro to lose or draw against North Shore, as I think they’ll struggle with three players out this week due to suspension.

I’ll also predict Manukau will beat Mt Albert Ponsonby without conceding a goal as I can’t see them breaking their five-game winless run.

Last round, I predicted Ngaruawahia United would win by three goals and Metro would upset Northern Rovers. I was wrong on both accounts — Ngaruawahia drew 3-3, and Metro lost 2-3.

Golden Boot

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


Games to be played on Friday June 21, 2024

Onehunga Mangere United v Takapuna
Mangere Central Park, Mangere, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Saturday June 22, 2024

Ngaruawahia United v Fencibles United
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, 3pm

Manukau United v Mt Albert Ponsonby
Walter Massey Park, Manukau, 3pm

North Shore United v Metro
Allen Hill Stadium, Devonport, 3pm

Hibiscus Coast v Franklin United
Stanmore Bay Park, Whangaparaoa, 3pm

Ellerslie v Northern Rovers
Michaels Ave, Ellerslie, 5pm

David Larkin

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

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