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Tough openers ahead for City

ALAN APTED
Last updated 08:01 26/02/2013
manukau city
BEN WATSON
TRAINING HARD: Last season’s Manukau City coach Ricky Espinoza is determined to win a place in the starting 11 this year.

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Manukau City face a testing start to their Northern Region Football League campaign next month.

The Division Two side will play Albany United at Massey Park in Mangere in their season opener on March 30.

Two days later they'll face Mangere United in a local derby at Centre Park in Mangere.

The draw for the 2013 Northern Region competition was released last week.

Manukau City coach Stan Khan says facing two of the strongest teams in the league is going to be a challenge.

"We haven't seen Albany play at all but we know that they will be strong.

"So too will Mangere who will have the home advantage for this local derby," Khan says.

"We're mindful of the challenge but as we keep reminding our players, teams are vulnerable at the start of the season and it's good chance for us to get a jump on them."

Khan says preparation will be key and he and co-coach Mark Day have a busy month of pre-season training and matches planned.

Khan and Day have taken over the reins from Ricky Espinoza who brought Manukau City up to Division 2 from the Conference League.

Espinoza is now trying to secure a starting position under the new coaches.

Onehunga Mangere, the third Mangere team in the division, are unsure who they will face first up. That's because the division is a team short after the withdrawal of Matamata Swifts last week.

The Swifts departure is a blessing for Papakura City. They were relegated last season but now have a chance to reclaim their status as a Northern League side.

They'll be involved in a three-team playoff for the vacant slot and will meet the winner of Te Atatu AFC v Claudeland Rovers match - they face off in two matches starting on March 2.

The date of Papakura's match has yet to be confirmed.

The winner of that match will be Onehunga Mangere's first opponent.

Te Atatu were runners-up in the Auckland Football Federation-Northern Football Federation's conference league.

Rovers were runners-up in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Federation league.

Papatoetoe AFC are at home against Hibiscus Coast for their first match of the season on March 30 which is Easter Saturday.

They play Forrest Hill at Becroft Park, Forrest Hill two days later.

Premier club Manurewa will be last cab off the rank. They host Central at War Memorial Park, Manurewa on April 6.

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- Manukau Courier

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