A string of three defeats in eight days has left Northland FC's first men's football team dangling precariously over the threat of relegation from the Lotto NRFL second division competition.
Northland FC first lost 2-1 to Cambridge in Cambridge on August 10 before a heavy 5-nil loss to Albany United on Tuesday last week, which was capped off by a 2-nil defeat to Metro FC on Saturday.
With the bottom two on the table being relegated at the end of the season, Northland sit in second to last on 17 points, two points behind Onehunga Mangere and four points behind Franklin United.
To concede nine goals and only score one across three games will be a concern for coach Owen Liiv as they look ahead to their two remaining games, first against Oratia United in four days time at the Tikipunga Sports Park before an away game against Franklin United on August 31 to finish the season.
While he was disappointed with the result against Cambridge where his team conceded two goals in the last 16 minutes to throw away a 1-nil lead, Liiv accepted the games' results had probably gone to form.
"We tried to defend against both Albany and Metro and see if we could pick up a point or two coming into last two games but they were good, Albany was like a different level and it was really tough to go down on a Tuesday night," he said.
Northland are confirmed a place in the competition if they win their two remaining games but as this season has showed, goal-winning games have not been easy to come by for Northland FC.
Liiv said the belief was still in the team and they were determined not to be relegated below the second division, a position this Northland team has never been in since its inception in 2004.
"We've definitely had a more defensive focus because [Albany and Metro] have people who can really hurt you, but in these last two games we'll be able to come out of our shell and look for goals a bit more."
In Northland's premier men's football competition, Kaeo-Inter were officially confirmed as 2019 league winners as they finished their last league game against FC Whangārei, 7-3 on Saturday.
With second-place still up for grabs, Onerahi secured an important 1-nil win over Madhatters in Onerahi on Saturday. The home side looked the better of the two teams as Onerahi had plenty of shots on goal until Daniel Hanmore finally sent one home in the 85th minute to win the game.
Onerahi coach Grant Short said it was a frustrating game at times when his team was dominating across the park but couldn't finish their opportunities.
"We dominated big chunks of the game and I don't think our keeper had to make many saves," he said.
"We just didn't finish, which has been the theme of our season really."
In the other game of the round, Kerikeri drew with Tikipunga 1-all. Kerikeri, Madhatters and Onerahi all have two games left in the league with the latter looking likely to secure second, six points ahead of third-placed Madhatters.
However, Onerahi will face a tough test against Kaeo-Inter in their Stafford Choat Cup semifinal at Whangaroa College on Saturday at 2pm. Short accepted Kaeo-Inter have had the measure of his side this season, but he knew his players could get the job done.
"We just need to finish the opportunities that we create, because we do create chances against them and I think we are just lapsing in concentration."
Whichever way Saturday goes, Short will have another bite at the semifinal cherry as his Onerahi premier women's team take on Kerikeri at Baysport Waipapa in their Northland premier women's cup semifinal on Sunday.
Short said both games would be tight but he was pleased to see the level of skill increase in 2019, particularly in the women's competition.
"It's really cool this year, we probably have six teams in the women's league this year which have been really competitive."
In Northland's premier women's competition on Sunday, Tikipunga drew 1-all with Bay Cosmos, Onerahi beat Central Brown, 5-0, and Bream Bay drew nil-all with Madhatters.