By Luke Austin
Round 14 of the Central League gets underway with an early 12.30pm kick-off at Karori Park as the Wharfies host Napier City Rovers.
Karori’s recent 3-0 win over Napier will be fresh on the minds of both sets of players in this important match, to be live-streamed by NZ Football.
Another win for Karori would bring them within two points of Napier in fourth place.
Miramar Rangers are at home again this weekend, welcoming Wests to David Farrington Park. Both sides have lost their last two games and need a big result to turn things around.
Wests will feel particularly anxious given that their lead in third place over Napier is now down to only a single point.
It’s a huge game at home for Whanganui as they face Stop Out at Wembley Park.
Whanganui scored two stoppage-time goals to secure their first win of the season in unbelievable fashion against North Wellington last weekend.
They are now only one point behind North Wellington and have a fantastic opportunity to leapfrog their relegation rivals when they play 8th-placed Stop Out at 2.30pm.
North Wellington face a tough fixture away to the Phoenix Reserves.
The home side will be expected to return to winning ways following their defeat to Wellington Olympic in a memorable game on Matariki Friday.
North Wellington now face a nail-biting relegation battle with Whanganui which could go down to the wire.
In the final game of the round, Petone host Olympic for the second time in three weeks.
Olympic came away 5-0 winners in the Chatham Cup, but Petone bounced back well, beating third-placed Wests and they should put up more of a challenge this time out as they continue to push for the top four.
Game of the week
Whanganui finally picked up their first points of the season last Saturday and now have five games remaining to chase down North Wellington and avoid relegation.
This weekend, they meet Stop Out in what could be their best chance of picking up more points.
Stop Out beat Whanganui earlier in the season and also secured an aggregate win when the two met in last year’s Central League play-off.
With just as much at stake this time for Whanganui, they will be up for the challenge to finally get one over Stop Out.
This could be a pivotal moment for the home side’s season.
Player to watch
Jack Henry-Sinclair scored a fantastic goal to spark the Olympic comeback against the Phoenix last Friday.
The winger has found the back of the net 11 times this season and is one of the league’s most consistent performers.
He caused Petone all sorts of problems in the Chatham Cup two weeks ago and will be looking to do the same this Saturday.
I’m predicting that things could get ugly for North Wellington against the Phoenix Reserves.
The Phoenix were unlucky to go down to a last-minute penalty against Olympic last weekend and they should come flying out of the blocks as they look to regain their winning form.
North Wellington have conceded 13 goals in their last three league games and could be on the end of a heavy loss at Fraser Park this Saturday.
I’m picking the Phoenix will win by three or more goals.
Games to be played on Saturday July 22, 2023
Waterside Karori v Napier City Rovers
Karori Park, Wellington, 12.30pm
Miramar Rangers v Western Suburbs
David Farrington Park, Island Bay, 2.30pm
Whanganui Athletic v Stop Out
Wembley Park, Whanganui, 2.30pm
Wellington Phoenix Reserves v North Wellington
Fraser Park, Lower Hutt, 3pm
Petone v Wellington Olympic
Petone Memorial Park, Petone, 3.30pm
Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.