Focus shifts to Central League relegation battle and fourth National League spot

posted in: Centre Circle, News

By Luke Austin

With two rounds left, attention focuses on which club will be left trapped at the foot of the Central League table — and who will fill the fourth qualifying spot for the Men’s National League.

Whanganui Athletic can still scramble clear of the wooden spoon, while Napier City Rovers, Petone and Western Suburbs can all snatch the last remaining place in the national competition.

Round 17 of the Central League begins with fifth-placed Western Suburbs taking on second-placed Wellington Phoenix Reserves at Porirua Park.

A win is needed for Wests after a draw away to Whanganui last time out saw them drop out of the top four.

They face an uphill battle to qualify for the National League with a final round fixture against Olympic to follow their clash with the Phoenix.

However, the Phoenix are without a win in their last four games, so it could go either way in a game that will be live-streamed on the NZ Football YouTube channel.

Whanganui Athletic’s point in round 16 means they are now only two points behind North Wellington and have the opportunity to put the pressure on their relegation rivals against 6th pace Miramar at David Farrington Park.

READ MORE: Miramar Rangers’ programme for match with Whanganui Athletic >>>>

North Wellington are away to Stop Out and will be aware that if Whanganui are unable to beat Miramar, three points at Hutt Park could guarantee their Central League safety with one game to spare. In the final Saturday fixture Karori are at ‘home’ against Petone in a game that will be played on the pristine surface at Martin Luckie Park.

Karori will hope to bounce back from the disappointment of their Chatham Cup semi-final exit to Melville United last weekend but face a Petone side whose great recent form has seen them move up to 4th place.

On Sunday, recently crowned champions Olympic travel to Bluewater Stadium to take on Napier City Rovers.

This will be a great test for the home side who are on an impressive eight-game unbeaten run and fancy their chances of beating any side at home.

Game of the week

Sunday’s game between Napier City Rovers and Wellington Olympic promises to be an exciting clash.

With 113 goals scored between them so far this season, this is a match-up between the two best attacks in the league.

There is plenty at stake for the home side who could potentially secure National League qualification with a win.

This game is also being live-streamed on the NZ Football YouTube channel.

Player to watch

Keep an eye on Napier winger Christian Leopard as his side takes on Olympic this Sunday.

The talented athlete played first-class cricket for Central Districts till 2022 and even represented New Zealand at the under-19 cricket World Cup in 2016 before making the switch to football.

He has found the back of the net six times this season, including one against the Phoenix in round 16, and will look to cause the Olympic defence some issues this weekend.

Bold prediction

I’m backing Whanganui to get a result at David Farrington Park this Saturday.

Whanganui’s last two games have been impressive 1-1 draws with top sides Napier and Wests, and Miramar have little left to play for this season apart from pride.

This could be the perfect time for Whanganui to grab the points required to close the gap on North Wellington.

READ MORE: Miramar Rangers’ programme for match with Whanganui Athletic >>>>


Games to be played on Saturday August 26, 2023

Western Suburbs v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Jerry Collins Stadium, Porirua, 2pm

Miramar Rangers v Whanganui Athletic
David Farrington Park, Miramar, 2.30pm

Stop Out v North Wellington
Hutt Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm

Waterside Karori v Petone
Martin Luckie Park, Berhampore, 2.30pm

Games to be played on Sunday August 27, 2023

Napier City Rovers v Wellington Olympic
Bluewater Stadium, Napier, 2pm

Luke Austin

Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.

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