By Luke Austin
Wellington Olympic host the Phoenix Reserves on Matariki in a top-of-table clash that could define this season’s Central League winners.
Only one point separates the two teams meaning a win for either side would guarantee top spot.
Olympic will feel confident following their 5-0 thrashing of Petone in the Chatham Cup round of 16, and the Phoenix will be fired up as they look to avenge their defeat to Olympic earlier this season.
This promises to be a thriller.
The action continues Saturday as Napier travel to David Farrington to face Miramar.
Napier secured a vital win over Wests last time out to strengthen their hold on the all-important 4th place, whereas Miramar fell to a disappointing defeat away to Stop Out as their inconsistent form continues.
Stop Out hosts Karori at Hutt Park in an interesting mid-table fixture.
Karori recently qualified for the Chatham Cup quarter-finals following an impressive 3-0 victory away to Napier and now turn their attention to challenging Napier and Petone for National League qualification.
Stop Out have a game in hand over their mid-table rivals, and a win here could kickstart a late push towards the top four.
Bottom-of-table match to be live streamed
The final Saturday game is a huge bottom-of-table matchup between North Wellington and Whanganui at Alex Moore Park.
North Wellington’s only win of the season came away to Whanganui, and they sit only 4 points ahead of their struggling rivals.
Another loss for Whanganui would all but confirm their relegation but a win could be the beginning of a nail-biting relegation scrap with North Wellington.
The final game of the round takes place at Endeavour Park as Petone takes on Western Suburbs.
Wests have seen their grip on third place loosen slightly following their defeat to Napier last round and they will know there is work still to be done to cement their place in the National League.
Petone will be desperate to bounce back from tough defeats to the Phoenix in the league and Olympic in the Cup.
Three points will be essential for them to keep pace with the top four.
Game of the week
Look no further than the opening game of the round between Olympic and the Phoenix Reserves as the game of the week.
This clash could potentially decide the eventual champions and will be a fantastic showcase of the best footballing talent in Wellington.
On top of that, it’s being played on a public holiday, so get down to Wakefield Park this Friday to get in on the action.
Player to watch
Wellington Olympic captain Ben Mata has found the back net seven times in his last four games.
That would be an impressive return for any striker, but he has accomplished this feat playing centre-back for the side with the second-best defence in the Central League.
Capable of making a difference at both ends of the pitch, Ben Mata will be one to watch as he leads his troops out to battle against the Phoenix this Friday.
I’m backing Whanganui to finally win this weekend.
North Wellington are in poor form, and the Whanganui players will be fired up, knowing this could be their last chance to avoid relegation.
I’m picking a 2-0 win for the away side.
Games to be played on Friday July 14, 2023
Wellington Olympic v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 3.45pm
Games to be played on Saturday July 15, 2023
Miramar Rangers v Napier City Rovers
David Farrington Park, Miramar, 2.30pm
Stop Out v Waterside Karori
Hutt Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm
North Wellington v Whanganui Athletic
Alex Moore Park, Johnsonville, 3pm
Games to be played on Sunday July 16, 2023
Western Suburbs v Petone
Endeavour Park, Porirua, 2pm
Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.