PREVIEW: Tricky games ahead as Championship sides chase leaders Fencibles

By David Larkin

The chasing pack face some tricky fixtures in their efforts to gain ground on Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship leaders Fencibles United.

Second-placed Ngaruawahia United host the inconsistent Mt Albert Ponsonby, always capable of finding points when least expected.

Ngaruawahia beat Onehunga Mangere United 3-0 last weekend — their first win in more than a month — while Mt Albert Ponsonby were unceremoniously trounced 4-0 last week by a strong Fencibles team.

MAP have won only once in their last seven matches.

Third-placed Northern Rovers will travel to Fencibles, knowing a loss will put a 14-point gap between them.

Manukau United, who have a game in hand on the other promotion challengers, have survived a string of tough fixtures which saw them hold on for draws against top sides Fencibles and Rovers.

In theory, they should welcome games against lower-ranked teams, lthough their opponent North Shore have hit a bit of form recently.

Shore’s defensive effort has been immense lately, and it has become the backbone of their four-game unbeaten run.

North Shore United … enjoying a four-match unbeaten run. Photo: Regan Dewar / Phototek.

Metro’s winless streak is now 11 games after they succumbed to bottom side Franklin United, providing their first victory of the season on Saturday.

Metro host Takapuna who have had some patchy form of late but managed to make a remarkable late comeback in their win against Coast last week.

Takapuna will go into this one as favourites, especially as they beat Metro 2-1 in the reverse fixture in round 3.

Ellerslie have failed to score in their last two outings, suffering 1-0 defeats in each match.

They host Franklin, who’ll be fired up after earning their first three-pointer of the season.

The reverse fixture was close with Ellerslie edging Franklin 1-0, with a late goal from Rowan Corbett.

Onehunga’s six-match unbeaten run was ended ruthlessly by Ngaruawahia last weekend, when they overwhelmed them 3-0.

Despite that, Onehunga rose on the table after Northern Region Football voided their 2-2 draw with Takapuna in June, awarding it to Onehunga Mangere as a 3-0 win following a breach of rules by Takapuna.

READ MORE: Admin error prompts reallocation of points in Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship >>>>

Onehunga Mangere United and Hibiscus Coast both have Chatham Cup commitments this weekend, so will play their Championship match on Tuesday evening.

In the cup, Onehunga Mangere travel to Manurewa, while Hibiscus Coast face last year’s cup runners-up, Melville United, at Gower Park, Hamilton.

Game of the week

Northern Rovers head coach Daniel Donegan. His team have a chance to close the gap on leaders Fencibles United.

First play third when leaders Fencibles United host Northern Rovers at Riverhills Park on Saturday.

Fencibles put four goals past Mt Albert Ponsonby and kept a clean sheet last weekend, maintaining their seven point lead in the competition.

Another win this weekend will consolidate their advantage and enhance their chances of gaining promotion.

Rovers weren’t able to overcome Manukau United at home last week, drawing with them for the second time this season.

They’ll be pleased with their defensive efforts of late, though, as they haven’t conceded in their last two matches.

This one promises to be a cracker.

Player to watch

Franklin United had to rely on new signing Tinotenda Mupemhena to stage a remarkable comeback at home against Metro last weekend to record their first win of the season.

They were trailing 2-0 after 35 minutes, and that’s when Mupemhena — in his first start for his new club — stepped up.

He scored his first in the 41st minute,  a second in the 64th minute and then completed his stunning hat-trick with a winner four minutes into stoppage time.

Mupemhena (26) transferred to Franklin from Northern Rovers before the June 30 transfer deadline.

He featured in seven matches for Rovers but was mostly consigned to the bench, starting only once.

With six goals this season, he’s climbing the Golden Boot table and if Franklin are to stand any chance of dodging relegation, he’ll need to become their talisman.

Bold prediction

I’m going to stick my neck out and pick Franklin United to continue their momentum with either a win or a draw against Ellerslie on Saturday.

I’ll also predict Ngaruawahia and Takapuna to both pick up wins against Mt Albert and Metro, respectively.

Last week, I predicted North Shore and Ngaruawahia would beat Ellerslie and Onehunga Mangere, respectively. I was right (for once) and both teams recorded victories.

Golden Boot

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


Games to be played on Saturday July 6, 2024

Ngaruawahia United v Mt Albert Ponsonby
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahi, 3pm

Fencibles United v Northern Rovers
Riverhills Park, Pakuranga, 3pm

Manukau United v North Shore United
Walter Massey Park, Manukau, 3pm

Metro v Takapuna
Phyllis St, Mt Albert, 3pm

Ellerslie v Franklin United
Michaels Ave, Ellerslie, 5pm

Games to be played on Tuesday July 9, 2024

Onehunga Mangere United v Hibiscus Coast
Mangere Centre Park, Mangere, 7.30pm

Table has been adjusted following NRF decision to award game between Takapuna and Onehunga Mangere United to the latter. Details here >>>>

David Larkin

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

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