PREVIEW: Waitemata need points in derby to keep ahead of Conference chasers

By Jack Sharp

League leaders Waitemata have a three-point buffer going into round 10 of the Lotto NRFL Northern Conference.

They’ve been playing well, and are setting the pace for the title and a crack at promotion to the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship.

But there’s little room for error.

This weekend, they face an improving Te Atatu in a local derby, while nearest rivals Waiheke United and Northland should be favourites to win their games.

Waitemata’s Lukas Webster lets fly in his side’s 4-2 win against Bucklands Beach last weekend. Photo: Regan Dewar / Phototek.

Game of the week

Waiheke United — a team traditionally known for flair and exciting football — have been getting their results a different way this season.

Second on the table, only one team (bottom-placed Oratia United) has scored fewer goals than Waiheke, whose success has been built around the tightest of defences, with only eight goals conceded.

Over the past month, Waiheke have slipped up a couple of times, drawing 1-1 with Waitemata and losing 3-2 to Bucklands Beach.

This weekend, they play Beachlands Maraetai who are second bottom, and needing points to catch the improving Te Atatu and the always-competitive Bucklands Beach.

Both teams need the points for different reasons, and this game looks like it will deliver an entertaining match.

Bucklands Beach’s Sander Waterland celebrates his goal against Waitemata in his 100th game for the club. Photo: Regan Dewar / Phototek.

Player to watch

Sander Waterland has been a central pillar at Bucklands Beach over the past five seasons, and he’s kept them competitive with an ability to keep his goal tally ticking over.

By his standards, Waterland (35) has had a slow start to the 2024 season but he’s now hitting his straps.

Last weekend, playing his 100th game for the club, he scored goal number six for the season, in his side’s 4-2 loss to leaders Waitemata. It was his 71st goal for the club.

It’s taken him to second spot on the Golden Boot table, and chances are he’ll find plenty more before the season’s over.

Bold prediction

Te Atatu have been picking up points over the past month, a sign of better things ahead.

They go into Saturday’s game at Waitemata with a real chance of testing their high-flying neighbours.

Te Atatu have scored 21 goals this season, only two fewer than the league leaders. If they can find a way of blunting Waitemata’s attack, the upset could be on.

Last round, I tipped Beachlands Maraetai to catch Northland on the hop, and to nick a point at least. Northland won 3-2, scoring their winner seven minutes into stoppage time.

Golden Boot

8 — Mark Giles (Beachlands Maraetai)
6 — Sander Waterland (Bucklands Beach)
5 — James Chamberlain-Barlow (Albany United), Josh Smith (Bucklands Beach), Adam Hargood (Waitemata)
4 — Nico Vanina (Waiheke United), Shane Tanner (Waitemata), Sergio Lindner (Waiheke United), Andy Kapteyn (Oratia United), Daniel Peak (Te Atatu), Jared Colligan (Te Atatu), Kyle Levell (Northland)

Fixtures

Games to be played on Saturday June 22, 2024

Waitemata v Te Atatu
McLeod Park, Te Atatu, 3pm

Oratia United v Northland
Parrs Park, Oratia, 3pm

Beachlands Maraetai v Waiheke United
Te Puru Park, Beachlands, 3pm

Albany United v Bucklands Beach
Rosedale Park, Albany, 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