PREVIEW: Waikato side gain on Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship leaders

By David Larkin

Ngaruawahia United have closed the gap on Fencibles United after the league leaders’ loss to Northern Rovers last week.

But the Waikato side will need to overcome in-form Hibiscus Coast on Saturday if they are to keep in touch.

Fencibles’ grip on the top spot looks shaky after falling to only their second loss of the season last week, a 4-2 defeat by Rovers.

Their lead has been cut to four points as Ngaruawahia were able to pick up a 4-2 win against Mt Albert.

Fencibles can return to winning form when they play at North Shore United, a side hovering above the relegation zone.

Ellerslie’s 7-0 demolition of bottom side Franklin United last week has shot them up the table two spots and into sixth place.

The Ponies will go into their next match, against Takapuna, with confidence after their strikers finally found the back of the net after a two-match goal drought.

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

Takapuna recorded a comfortable victory against Metro, completing the league double against them this season.

Takapuna and Ellerslie are tied on 19 points, so this match provides an opportunity for the victors to catapult themselves away from the mid-table and towards the top five.

Manukau United put an end to their five-game winless run last weekend with an assured 3-0 victory over North Shore, a repeat of the scoreline in the reverse fixture earlier this season.

Another three points could be in store for them this weekend when they take on Franklin, a side they beat 5-0 at home back in round four.

Manukau have another fixture to contend with as they play Onehunga Mangere United at Mangere Centre Park on Tuesday, in a match that could potentially decide who walks away from this round with fourth place.

Onehunga Mangere have lost two league games in a row and three games in total after being knocked out of the Chatham Cup by Manurewa last weekend, before succumbing 1-0 to Coast on Tuesday.

They sit fifth after dropping two spots on the table.

They will relish the chance to play Metro on Friday, however, as their opponents have now suffered 13 games without a win.

Rovers will be heartened by their stunning win over Fencibles last week which continues their run of impressive performances.

They now have a 10-game unbeaten streak with their only defeats this season coming against Ngaruawahia and this week’s opponents, Mt Albert Ponsonby.

They beat Mt Albert in the first round of the Chatham Cup, so it will be interesting to see if they can repeat that feat at McFetridge Park on Saturday.

Game of the week

Hibiscus Coast welcome second-placed Ngaruawahia to Stanmore Bay Park in Whangaparaoa on Saturday, having won the away fixture 3-2 after scoring two goals in added time.

Emmanuel Darkwa.

That win highlights their remarkable record against the top sides this season, having also beaten Fencibles and secured a goalless draw against Northern Rovers.

This will be a crucial match for Ngaruawahia as they now have some hope of catching Fencibles after they dropped points against Rovers last week.

Their away record supports their cause as it has been immaculate this season; their only away loss came in round one against Fencibles.

Coast’s record at home is far from adequate, having registered only one league win on home turf this year, and that was against bottom-of-the-table Franklin.

They’ll be boosted by their recent performances in league and cup, however, having toppled Northern League side Melville United out of the Chatham Cup, and beaten Onehunga Mangere in Tuesday’s catch-up game.

Coast travelled to Melville, last year’s runners-up in the Chatham Cup, and upset the Waikato side 1-0, with the winning goal from Emmanuel Darkwa.

Player to watch

Moheb Hamidi (25) grabbed the attention of Championship followers last weekend when he scored a second-half hat trick for Rovers in their statement-making 4-2 victory over the top-of-the-table Fencibles.

It was Hamidi’s first haul of goals this season, as he’s only recently broken into the team, playing in their last four matches.

Rovers will be looking for him to help extend their 10-match unbeaten run and push for a place in the top two in the coming weeks.

Bold prediction

I’ll predict Onehunga Mangere will turn around their recent string of losing performances and pick up the win against Metro at Mangere Centre Park on Saturday.

I’ll also predict Northern Rovers and Manukau United will defeat Mt Albert and Franklin, respectively.

Last week, I predicted Franklin would pick up a win or a draw against Ellerslie and Ngaruawahia and Takapuna would both win. Franklin lost 7-0 but Ngaruawahia and Takapuna both picked up comfortable wins.

Golden Boot

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


Games to be played on Friday July 12, 2024

Franklin United v Manukau United
Drury Sports Complex, Drury, 7pm

Onehunga Mangere United v Metro
Mangere Centre Park, Mangere, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Saturday July 13, 2024

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

Northern Rovers v Mt Albert Ponsonby
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 3pm

Takapuna v Ellerslie
Taharoto Park, Takapuna, 3pm

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

Game to be played on Tuesday July 16, 2024

Manukau United v Onehunga Mangere United
Mangere Centre Park, Mangere, 7.30pm

David Larkin

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

More football stories