PREVIEW: Fencibles United pull clear of pack in NRFL Men’s Championship

By David Larkin

Fencibles United hold a seven-point lead in the Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship after defeating nearest rivals Ngaruawahia United last round, in what could prove to be a pivotal win in their quest for the title.

Coach Rhys Ruka and his Fencibles side face another challenge this week when they take on a Mt Albert Ponsonby side who beat third-placed Manukau United last week 4-2.

Fencibles claimed victory in the reverse fixture this season but Mt Albert’s excellent home form could play a part as they have only lost once at Anderson Park this season.

Ngaruawahia travel to Onehunga Mangere United this week, looking to overturn a 1-2 loss in the reverse fixture when they hosted them earlier this season.

Their loss to Fencibles last week has left the door wide open for the chasing pack, with sides like Northern Rovers, Manukau United and this week’s opponents, Onehunga Mangere United, all within striking distance of Ngaruwahia’s second-place spot.

Takapuna have shown a good deal of resilience recently, picking up late draws against some of the top teams.

They repeated this feat last week against Onehunga Mangere in which a second-half strike from Takapuna defender Jacob Reeves-Parmenter rescued a point for his side.

Takapuna host Hibiscus Coast, who ended their three-game scoring drought in the league with an emphatic 6-1 victory against a hapless Franklin United side.

North Shore United host Ellerslie this weekend in a fixture that ended 2-0 in favour of the Ponies earlier this season.

Home advantage has never been more applicable, though, as North Shore have won all 11 of their points this season at their home ground of Allen Hill Stadium, including five in their last three matches.

Ellerslie have just completed a brutal run of games against some tough opponents in which they only picked up one win in six matches.

They will be buoyed by the opportunity to play three of the bottom four teams in their next three games.

Mount Albert Ponsonby’s Maksim Manko … he’s scored in his last two games after a mid-season move from Manurewa. Photo: Regan Dewar / Phototek.

Franklin need to find some defensive resilience if they are to turn around their season.

They still haven’t managed to record a win this year and have conceded four goals or more in eight of their last nine matches.

They host a foundering Metro side this weekend, a game that could provide the chance to give their fans a bit of joy after a turgid season thus far.

Metro have also endured a long drought without a win. Their last victory came in their previous match against Franklin this season which they won comfortably 3-0.

They sit on the brink of the relegation zone, so picking up three points could prove vital to their survival in the league.

Game of the week

Northern Rovers and Manukau United will have to fight for the right to stay in contention for the coveted promotion play-off position as they face each other at McFetridge Park on Saturday.

Manukau relinquished third spot to Rovers last week after falling 4-2 to Mt Albert Ponsonby in a match in which they were always trailing.

Rovers have remained quietly consistent, increasing their unbeaten run to seven league games.

This match could prove crucial for both teams’ hopes for promotion as they sit within striking distance of second place after Ngaruwahia United finally dropped a game last weekend.

This previous fixture in round 2 ended all square at 1-1.

Trent Mayes celebrates one of his 100 goals for Hibiscus Coast, to the joy of teammates and home supporters. Photo: Jackie van Tran Phototek.

Player to watch

Hibiscus Coast’s Trent Mayes celebrated a momentous achievement a couple weeks ago when he scored his 100th premier men’s goal in their 4-0 cup win over Taupo.

Mayes (29) rose through the junior grades at the club and made his debut for the senior team at the age of 16.

He has now amassed more than 150 senior appearances for the club and has certainly entrenched his legacy as a great servant to his boyhood club.

Though he didn’t feature last week, Coast will still be looking to him to provide their goal threat in Saturday’s match against an improved Takapuna side.

Bold prediction

I’m going to pick North Shore United to continue their excellent home form and pick up another win when they host Ellerslie this weekend.

I’ll also predict Ngaruawahia United will return to their dominant selves this week and beat Onehunga Mangere when they play at Mangere Centre Park on Saturday.

Last week, I predicted Metro would lose or draw against North Shore and that Manukau United would beat Mt Albert Ponsonby. I was half right — Metro got the draw but Manukau lost their match 4-2.

Golden Boot

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


Games to be played on Saturday June 29, 2024

Mt Albert Ponsonby v Fencibles United
Anderson Park, Mt Albert, 3pm

Takapuna v Hibiscus Coast
Taharoto Park, Takapuna, 3pm

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

Northern Rovers v Manukau United
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm

Onehunga Mangere United v Ngaruawahia United
Mangere Centre Park, Mangere, 3pm

Franklin United v Metro
Bledisloe Park, Pukekhoe, 3pm

David Larkin

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

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