By Luke Austin
Wellington Olympic continue to look untouchable at the top of the Central League.
However, a chasing pack of Miramar Rangers, the Wellington Phoenix Reserves and Western Suburbs are beginning to emerge.
Only one point separates Western Suburbs in fourth and Miramar, who are second.
Round 5 action gets underway at Hutt Park on Saturday with an intriguing clash between Stop Out and Whanganui Athletic.
The last meeting between these two sides was the dramatic play-off last September which ended 2-2 and saw Stop Out promoted to the Central League.
Stop Out will be favourites, but this is a game that Whanganui will be desperate to win and show they deserve their place amongst the elite.
Saturday also sees North Wellington host the Phoenix Reserves and Olympic travel to Petone.
The Phoenix will likely need nothing less than another win to remain within reach of Olympic, who should gain another three points but will need be weary of an unpredictable Petone side.
The games continue on Sunday as Napier City Rovers and Karori face off at Bluewater Stadium and Western Suburbs host Miramar Rangers.
A win for Wests would see them leapfrog their opponents and move into the top three.
Game of the week
Expect an intense and action-packed game between Stop Out and Whanganui this Saturday as both newly promoted sides fight for valuable points and bragging rights.
Whanganui have endured a rough start to life in the Central League, suffering four defeats in a row, but have shown glimpses of what they are capable of and will be confident that things may finally go their way at Hutt Park.
I’m predicting more drama between Stop Out and Whanganui this weekend. The last meeting between the two featured three goals from the 90th minute and later.
Do not be surprised if Saturday’s game ends in another high-scoring draw with tempers boiling over near the end.
Player to watch
Former Miramar and Hawkes Bay United striker Jorge Akers made the switch to Waterside Karori this summer and has been in fine form for his new club, finding the back of the net in three of the opening four rounds of Central League action.
He returns to his old stomping ground, Bluewater Stadium, on Sunday with hopes of firing Karori to their second win of the season.
One more thing …
Don’t forget the match between Western Suburbs and Miramar Rangers will be live-streamed on Sunday.
Games to be played on Saturday April 22, 2023
Stop Out v Whanganui Athletic
Hutt Park, Wellington, 2.30pm
North Wellington v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Alex Moore Park, Johnsonville, 3pm
Wellington Olympic v Petone
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 3.45pm
Games to be played on Sunday April 23, 2023
Napier City Rovers v Waterside Karori
Bluewater Stadium, Napier, 2pm
Western Suburbs v Miramar Rangers
Endeavour Park, Whitby, 2pm
Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.