Football: Crunch match looks like season decider

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Tauranga City's leading scorer is Jerahi Hughes. Photo: George Novak
Tauranga City's leading scorer is Jerahi Hughes. Photo: George Novak

A much anticipated clash between the top two teams in the Northern League 2nd Division awaits football fans at Links Ave tomorrow from 2.30pm.

Belvedere Group Tauranga City United, who retained their lead following their stoppage time 2-2 draw with Papakura City in Auckland last weekend, will host in-form second placed Forrest Hill-Milford.

Tauranga City's assistant coach Andy Birchenough, who has had sole charge of the team during July in head coach Duncan Lowry's absence in the UK, says the winner of this game will probably take out the league.

"The rest of the pack has dropped off. We have been on a really good run, winning the last nine and drawing one, but we have not shrugged this team off who are only a point behind us. They have been on exactly the same run so this is going to be the game of the season," said Birchenough.

"They haven't exactly got a goalscorer in the top 10 I don't think. But they get goals from all over the place.

We have Jerahl (Hughes) on 14 and Jack (McNab) on 10, but they have quite a lot of players on eight or seven goals. They are strong in midfield and do break quite quick. They are no mugs this lot."

Tauranga City's recent form has particularly pleased Birchenough.

"I think some of the boys have really stepped up, especially big Sam (O'Regan). He is a good captain and is a real leader of men, but he has been really helpful off the pitch as well.

"He has made it a lot easier for me. He is a good link between players and the back room staff.

"The players' attitude at training is always absolutely spot on, which makes training easier. You put on a session and you know it is going to be played at high intensity and everyone is going to get something out of it. What we do at training we take out onto the pitch on Saturday and Sunday. It kind of works for us."

The absence of head coach Lowry has been easier to handle for the team because the coaches left behind follow the same systems as he does.

"I have really enjoyed it but nothing has really changed," said Birchenough. "Duncan and I always worked together anyway. I have known Duncan for 21 years and played with him years ago, and we kind of live in each other's pockets anyway.

"We both want our team to play the same way so I have just been keeping things going."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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