Hamilton Wanderers running out of chances to avoid relegation
Hamilton Wanderers are running out of chances to avoid the drop in northern league football, and it's not as if they haven't had any.
They slumped to their fourth loss in a row in the premier division on Saturday, going down 2-1 to Three Kings United.
Michael Built had put his Wanderers side ahead in the ninth minute at Keith Hay Park in Auckland, with a lob over Three Kings' keeper that was deemed to have crossed the line, despite protests from the home team, who believed they had cleared it.
But that was the only goal they managed, despite having several more excellent chances in the half, and when they were only 1-0 up at the break, there was a sense they might come to rue not taking them.
Three Kings equalised eight minutes into the second half, when Stephen Ashby-Peckham lobbed Matt Oliver in Wanderers' goal, with a cross-cum-shot, and then put his side ahead with just over 20 minutes to play, after Oliver came rushing out of his box to clear the ball, but failed to make contact, allowing Ashby-Peckham to pounce.
It was an unfortunate moment for the stopper, who otherwise didn't have a lot to do.
Wanderers have rallied late in their past two matches, to no avail, but ran out of steam at the end of this one, failing to generate anything that was truly dangerous as they chased an equaliser.
Three Kings now have a five-point advantage over Wanderers, and as they have already-relegated Manurewa to come, a team who have lost 18 of their 20 matches, they will almost certainly be safe.
That means it is now a two-horse race between Wanderers and Forrest Hill Milford, who gained a valuable point in drawing 2-2 with Central United on Sunday.
Forrest Hill now have 20 points to Wanderers' 19, as well as a vastly superior goal difference and a game in hand, against newly-crowned champions Onehunga Sports next weekend.
Wanderers resume the following Saturday at home against third-placed Glenfield Rovers, and then finish their campaign a week later against Bay Olympic, who are seventh.
After Onehunga, Forrest Hill's final two games are against fourth-placed Waitakere City and Three Kings.
In the first division, Melville United did what they had to in the promotion battle, but didn't get the poor result from Western Springs or Manukau City they needed to move up the ladder.
Lachie McIsaac, Steve Holloway, Jama Boss and Jacob Robb scored in their 4-1 win over Hibiscus Coast at Gower Park, with Jon Burns grabbing the consolation goal for the visitors.
Western Springs had a 7-1 win over Oratia United, and remain two points ahead of Melville, but two points behind Manukau, who were 1-0 up over Waitemata at halftime in their match, which was then abandoned as the officials deemed conditions to be unplayable.
That game will have to be rescheduled, which means all three teams have three games left to play.
In the second division, Claudelands Rovers had a 3-0 win over Onehunga-Mangere United, with Kiegan Surgison, Dean Shaw, and Sedy Ngungambili all scoring.
On Sunday, in the Northern Premier Women's League, Claudelands Rovers went down 2-0 to Eastern Suburbs at Madills Farm in Auckland, ending their faint title chances and putting Suburbs within one win of claiming the spoils themselves.
Hamilton Wanderers weren't in action, but would have been glad to see Northland lose 2-0 to Glenfield Rovers, a result which keeps them within reach at the bottom of the table.
Wanderers play Northland on the road next Sunday, and will almost certainly need a win if they are to make a late escape and avoid relegation.
Northern Region Premier Division: Three Kings United 2 (Ashby-Peckham 2) beat Hamilton Wanderers 1 (Built)
Northern Region First Division: Melville United 4 (McIsaac, Holloway, Boss, Robb) beat Hibiscus Coast 1 (Burns)
Northern Region Second Division: Claudelands Rovers 3 (Surgison, Shaw, Ngungambili) beat Onehunga-Mangere United 0
Northern Premier Women's League: Eastern Suburbs 2 (Roxburgh, van Dort) beat Claudelands Rovers 0