By Luke Austin
First-week winners Petone and Napier City Rovers get the chance to set the pace when their early Saturday kick-off gets round two of the Central League underway.
Napier travel to Lower Hutt for the second week in a row after their comfortable win at Stop Out in the opening round.
Napier’s form away from home was the main factor preventing them from finishing higher than 4th in 2022, so another win on the road would be priceless before a run of three straight home games.
Waterside Karori aim to bounce back from their narrow loss to the Phoenix Reserves but face the daunting challenge of defeating Wellington Olympic, who look as dominant as ever.
Other games see Miramar face North Wellington, the Phoenix Reserves travel to Whanganui and Western Suburbs face off against Stop Out.
Game of the week
The O’Brien Shield is up for grabs in Saturday’s game between Miramar Rangers and North Wellington at David Farrington Park.
The shield, first introduced to Capital Football by Seatoun AFC in 1991, is defended by the holder at home games.
Miramar have successfully defended it 30 times since they took it off Lower Hutt in 2019.
The Shield adds extra incentive for both sides looking to bounce back from opening-round defeats.
Western Suburbs put three past an experienced North Wellington side and will expect to cause issues for a Stop Out defence that was lucky to not concede more than three goals at home to Napier last week.
I’m predicting plenty of goals and a big win to Wests.
Player to watch
Having missed the opening round due to his call-up to the All Whites U-22 squad, winger Noah Karunaratne will likely be back in action for the Phoenix Reserves against Whanganui Athletic.
Last year, Karunaratne was nominated for the Capital Football Young Player of the Year. He will no doubt continue his upward trajectory this season as he looks to play his way into the Phoenix first team.
Games to be played on Saturday April 1, 2023
Petone v Napier City Rovers
Petone Memorial Turf, Lower Hutt, 1.30pm
Waterside Karori v Wellington Olympic
Karori Park, Wellington, 2.30pm
Miramar Rangers v North Wellington
David Farrington Park, Wellington, 2.30pm
Games to be played on Sunday April 2, 2023
Whanganui Athletic v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Wembley Park, Whanganui, 2pm
Western Suburbs v Stop Out
Endeavour Park, Whitby, 2pm
Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.