Manly United versus North Shore Mariners: The birth of a Northern NPL Derby?
By Chris Curulli
Since the establishment of the Manly-Warringah Dolphins in 1992, only one club based in Northern Sydney has ever occupied the top tier of NSW football.
But almost three decades on from the last derby between Manly-North Shore United and Warringah Freshwater, Manly United find themselves with a new local rival to contend with.
The promotion of North Shore Mariners to NPL1 in 2020 means that for the first time in recent memory, NPL fans and players have a local derby fixture in Sydney’s North to look forward to.
It all kicks off this Friday night as the club based in Northbridge make the trip over to Cromer Park for the first competitive meeting between Manly United and the North Shore Mariners.
Manly currently sit in 7th spot after a confidence-boosting 5-2 rout of defending champions APIA Leichhardt last week.
With five rounds remaining they are within striking distance of a playoff position and know just how much every point matters from here on in.
North Shore on the other hand looked to have rapidly adjusted to life in the top-flight back in March when they pulled out shock results against APIA and the national champions Wollongong Wolves.
They have unfortunately been unable to recreate those heroics post-COVID, sitting second-bottom with three draws and three losses to their name since the competition’s reboot.
While Joe Haywood’s side will be eager to earn the first set of bragging rights and secure their maiden win of the season in the process, Manly United coach Adam Griffiths has set his focus purely on continuing his own side’s improvement.
“This week has been focused on what things we need to improve based on the last few games have been played,” he said.
“We know how we want to play, but there’s areas of our game that we haven’t even been able to touch on because of the COVID situation.
“We’re fixing some of the problems that we had against APIA, so that we can improve as a team, but also continually working on the areas that have been our strengths so that we can be a real strong force in those parts of that game.
“I’m realistically not really thinking too much about the Mariners. Obviously they have very talented young players and it’s another good challenge for some of our talented young players to play and get some exposure against those teams.”
Friday’s match will kick off at 7:30pm under lights at Cromer Park.
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