PREVIEW: Top three put pressure on Auckland City in Northern League title race

posted in: News, Northern League

By David Larkin

The Northern League’s top three sides play teams from the bottom half of the table this weekend, putting pressure on defending champions Auckland City who are fourth.

On form, Birkenhead United, Western Springs and Eastern Suburbs are favoured to keep winning, while the Navy Blues have put themselves under pressure with only one point from their last two outings.

Auckland City have two matches in the next week — a tricky trip to Tauranga and a midweek catch-up fixture next Wednesday against Manurewa.

Matariki provides Northern League followers with two afternoon fixtures on Friday.

Springs travel to Olympic in a Matariki Friday fixture.

Olympic ended their four-game losing streak with a win at East Coat Bays last week.

The second Matariki game sees Hamilton Wanderers host Auckland United.

Wanderers remain at the bottom of the table after blowing a golden opportunity to pick up points against local rivals Melville United, who are also relegation-threatened.

Auckland United backed up their impressive league form last week, although they wrapped up the victory late on, scoring two goals in the last 10 minutes to record a 4-2 win against Tauranga.

Auckland United are now on a five game unbeaten run. They secured a comfortable 3-0 victory in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

Manurewa will be bitterly disappointed after giving up a halftime lead in last week’s match against Springs.

They went on to concede three unanswered goals in the second half to end all dreams of a potential upset victory.

Manurewa’s Eber Ramirez … scorer of nine goals this season. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Manurewa have gone four games without a win, and they’ll relish the opportunity to turn that around and use their two fixtures this week to pick up much-needed points.

West Coast Rangers suffered an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to top-of-the-table Birkenhead last Friday, making it the third time they’ve lost to them this season.

They snatched a draw when they played Manurewa at home earlier this season but will need to improve on that if they want to move away from their precarious position on the table.

Suburbs take on East Coast Bays this week who capitulated in their game against Olympic, ending their recent run of form in the league.

Bays lost to Suburbs when they hosted them earlier this season, but playing away could prove to be an advantage as they have claimed the majority of their points in away games this season.

Game of the week

Auckland City have had a disappointing return to Northern League action since winning the OFC Champions League in Tahiti.

They have failed to score in their last two league matches, recording a 0-0 draw against United and suffering a 0-1 loss last week against Eastern Suburbs — the first time they’ve ever lost to the Lilywhites.

City beat Tauranga City 3-1 when they played them at home earlier this season and they will need to repeat that effort if they are to chase down league leaders Birkenhead United.

Tauranga’s impressive mid-season form came to an end last week, with their eight-game unbeaten streak expunged with a disappointing 2-4 loss to Auckland United.

This is the most vulnerable City have looked all season and it provides Tauranga City an opening to stage an upset, as they try to gain ground on the top four.

Striker Emiliano Tade (centre) has been Western Springs’ main goal threat since moving from Auckland City. Photo: Regan Dewar / Phototek.

Player to watch

After last week’s brace against Manurewa, Western Springs’ striker Emiliano Tade is now the co-leader (with Eastern Suburbs’ Jake Mechell) in the Golden Boot race, with 13 goals for the season.

His goals initiated what would become an impressive comeback for his side to turn around a three-game winless run.

Tade (36) also picked up a double in Springs’ earlier match against Bay Olympic this season in which his goals proved the difference as they went on to win 2-0.

This is Tade’s first season with Springs, transferring from City after spending most of his New Zealand career at Kiwitea Street.

He made his debut for local side Club Atletico Mitre in his home country of Argentina but made the move to New Zealand back in 2010 and has become one of the finest players in our domestic leagues.

Tade’s Springs side play Bay Olympic on Friday.

Bold prediction

Birkenhead United have extended their impressive unbeaten run which now sits at 13 games in all competitions after their 5-0 demolition of West Coast Rangers last week.

They’ve also scored three goals or more in their last eight matches.

You’d expect them to continue that scoring form when they play Melville United, who are currently second-last on the table.

I predict Birkenhead will win the match by at least three goals.

For a really bold prediction, I’ll predict Auckland City will drop points to Tauranga City on Saturday.

City have failed to win or score in their last two matches, so I think Tauranga could pick up a draw, at least, in that match.

Last week, I predicted Birkenhead would win by two goals against Rangers and East Coast Bays would beat Bay Olympic. I was half right — Birkenhead won by five goals but Bays lost 1-3 to Olympic.

Golden Boot

13 — Jake Mechell (Eastern Suburbs), Emiliano Tade (Western Springs)
12 — Jonty Bidois (Tauranga City)
9 — Eber Ramirez (Manurewa)
8 — Liam Gillion (Auckland City)
7 — Allan Pearce (West Coast Rangers), Corban Piper (Birkenhead United), Josh Tollervey (Auckland United, now Miramar Rangers), Monty Patterson (Birkenhead United), Reid Drake (Western Springs)
6 — Derek Tieku (Hamilton Wanderers, now Auckland City), Jerson Lagos Giraldo (Manurewa), Sam Philip (Birkenhead United), Ronaldo Munoz (Bay Olympic, now Hamilton Wanderers), Ibrahim Nadir (Bay Olympic)
5 — Ryan de Vries (Auckland City)


Games to be played on Friday June 28, 2024

Bay Olympic v Western Springs
Olympic Park, New Lynn, 3pm

Hamilton Wanderers v Auckland United
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, 3pm

Games to be played on Saturday June 29, 2024

Northern League

Eastern Suburbs v East Coast Bays
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 3pm

Manurewa v West Coast Rangers
Manurewa War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm

Tauranga City v Auckland City
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 3pm

Birkenhead United v Melville United
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 5.30pm

David Larkin

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

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