Friday night football at Gower

It’s a big weekend coming up at Gower Park, with the feature match a northern league fixture (3pm Saturday) between table-toppers Melville and mid-table Fencibles United, who were promoted last season.

While Melville will start favourites, Fencibles are fresh from an underdog win away to Waiheke United, and cannot be taken lightly, with their squad including players such as Jarrod Young and Sean Latimer.

But the home fixture list starts on Friday night (7pm) with Melville Nobs – the Waikato A Division defending champions – hosting Waikato Unicol under lights on Gower 2.

There is much interest in how Melville Nobs will cope with a significant turnover of personnel since clinching the title last August.

Jason Chewins, the Peter Pan of the team, has transferred to Hibiscus Coast after putting puppy love ahead of football for the first time in his career, while other key players, Hamish Utteridge and Subesh Naidu have elected to play for Melville Feds this season.

Shipping in are Luke Harden, brother of Justin Harden (real name), Avi Raju, who has dropped down from ther Feds, while veteran Neil Mouncher is poised to play in goal for home Friday night matches, which should ensure a miserable time for everyone within earshot.

Nobs gaffer Gavin Douglas said a number of other notable club members would guest throughout the season.

“One of the reasons we looked at playing at home on Friday night was the possibility of getting some game time from our still-young first team coaches Sam Wilkinson and Michael Mayne,” Douglas said.

“But as it happens they’ve been balloted out for the first week with a surplus of players. In Sam’s case we’ll be treating it as a stand-down for that time he transferred to Tauranga City United in 2004 – a lot of us haven’t forgotten that.”

Douglas is also hoping to unleash almost permanently injured former first teamer Steven Holloway.

“Steve can only run straight lines at the moment with his bad back, but we are thinking of lining him up down the middle of the pitch, and then just turning him around at half time.”

The Nobs have had a poor pre-season, something Douglas attributes to his assistant Wayne Bates scheduling a host of 5-a-side games at Star Turf.

“You never like to question Batesy, but it’s not a pre-season recommendation I’ve seen in any coaching manual.”

Melville club manager Phil Wheatley said the bar would be open and he was hoping for a good turnout of club support both on Friday night and Saturday.

Melville women begin their Waikato A campaign at home to Matamata Swifts at 1pm on Sunday, with the Melville Epics playing Mangakino at 11am.

Full draw for Melville teams this weekend:

Melville Nobs v Waikato Unicol, Gower Park, 7pm

Tokoroa v Melville D, Strathmore Park, 12.30pm
Waikato Unicol Vets v Melville Old Boys, University, 12.30pm
Melville Mighty Bs v West Hamilton Utd B, Gower 2.45pm
St Paul’s Corinthians v Melville B2s, St Pauls 2.45pm
Tauranga Boys’ College v Melville U23s (Fed League) Southey, 2.45pm

Melville Premier Women v Matamata Swifts, Gower 1pm
Melville Epics v Mangakino Utd, Gower 11am
Wanderers Classics v Melville Development, Porritt, 11am

Youth, Sunday
Melville U13 v Papamoa Fed U13, Gower 11.20pm
Rotorua United v Melville U14, Neil Hunt Park 1pm
Claudelands Rovers v Melville U12 Red Galloway, 10am
Claudelands Rovers U12 Forca v Melville U12 Green, St Paul’s, 10am
Rotorua United v Melville U16 Green, Neil Hunt Park, 11am
Tauranga City v Melville U16 Red, 11am, Links Ave
Melville U13s v Papamoa, Gower, 11.20am
Rotorua United v Melville U14, Neil Hunt Park, 1pm

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