By Logan Smith
With the Southern League reaching its third-to-last full round, eyes will be on both ends of the table, with fates potentially decided this weekend.
Christchurch United, already confirmed to participate in the National League, are closing in on the Southern League title and could potentially seal it this weekend.
Cashmere Technical can confirm their own National League participation with a win, while FC Twenty 11 are getting closer to confirmed relegation.
First up, at midday on Saturday, third-placed Dunedin City Royals take on Cashmere Technical at the Dunedin Artificial Turf.
A win will secure a National League place for Cashmere, while the Royals must win to keep alive any hope of qualifying. A draw will suffice for Cashmere if Coastal Spirit are unable to beat Nomads United.
At 1.30pm, bottom half sides Selwyn United and Green Island are in action at Foster Park. Both are yet to confirm survival, but victory in this fixture would likely do so for either.
At Tulett Park, visitors Coastal Spirit will need to win against Nomads United to stay in the hunt for a National League place, if Cashmere haven’t already dashed those hopes with victory earlier in the day.
At 5pm, Ferrymead Bays host FC Twenty 11 at English Park, with FC Twenty likely requiring victory to have a realistic shot at avoiding relegation. While they cannot be mathematically relegated this weekend, a scenario where they must win next week against Christchurch United is undesirable.
Finally, on Sunday, at midday, Nelson Suburbs host Christchurch United. The champagne corks could be flying for the away side if they win, as three points will seal the Southern League title if Cashmere fail to beat Dunedin City Royals.
Game of the week
Dunedin City Royals’ home game against Cashmere Technical primes as the most important match of the round, not only for the teams involved but for other sides playing later.
Off the back of thrashing FC Twenty 11 7-0 and ending a losing streak, the Royals need to win to remain in the qualification race. But for Cashmere, they’ll be motivated to lock in their National League place, and have a score to settle with the Royals who defeated them in the reverse fixture.
The game will be live-streamed on NZ Football’s YouTube channel.
Player to watch
Youngster Ben Polak (19) has made himself a regular in the Nelson Suburbs midfield as the Southern League season has gone on and he opened the scoring against Coastal Spirit last week from the edge of the box.
Against a Christchurch United side known for their physicality and fitness, it could be a fine time for him to shine in the midfield engine room for Nelson Suburbs.
Nelson Suburbs have enjoyed solid victories lately over Ferrymead Bays and Coastal Spirit, and will relish the chance to host an unbeaten title-chasing Christchurch United on home turf.
It’s one of the toughest away games in the league, and so I’m predicting Suburbs will hold off the Christchurch United party in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Games to be played on Saturday August 12, 2023
Dunedin City Royals v Cashmere Technical
Dunedin Artificial Turf, Dunedin, 12pm
Selwyn United v Green Island
Foster Park, Rolleston, 1.30pm
Nomads United v Coastal Spirit
Tulett Park, Bishopdale, 2.45pm
Ferrymead Bays v FC Twenty 11
English Park, Christchurch, 5pm
Games to be played on Sunday August 13, 2023
Nelson Suburbs v Christchurch United
Saxton Fields, Nelson, 12pm
Logan Smith is a passionate football fan and volunteer, based in Dunedin, covering the Southern League.