By Harrison Ryburn
The final place in next season’s Southern League will be decided on Saturday when UC Football host Roslyn Wakari at English Park in the second leg of their Southern League promotion play-off series.
The first leg at Ellis Park in Dunedin finished 2-2, with the tie on a knife edge as the second leg focus moves north to Christchurch.
It was tit-for-tat through the first leg, with both sides trading scores.
Simbarashe Muwunganirwa gave Roslyn Wakari the lead inside the first seven minutes, but Charlie Bayly responded shortly after to level the tie at 1-1 heading into the break.
UC momentarily led when Stuart Campbell scored their second just after the hour mark, before Nathan Walkie levelled it back up for Roslyn Wakari with ten minutes of normal time to play.
Saturday’s Southern League Promotion Play-off second leg represents the culmination of four weeks of knock-out football to decide who will take FC Twenty 11’s place in the Southern League for 2024.
UC Football, the New World Premiership winners, have been involved from the start, first having to see off FC Nelson in the Mainland Football senior men’s play-off.
UC trailed FC Nelson, the Nelson Pine Premier League champions, after the first leg, but managed to turn it around on home turf at English Park, securing a 3-0 second-leg victory to seal a 5-3 win in the tie.
They’ll be hoping home advantage comes to their aid again, with the artificial turf at English Park having proven tricky for unfamiliar opposition throughout this season.
Roslyn Wakari qualified directly to the Southern League promotion play-off series as the Southern Football representative after finishing second in the Men’s Southern Premiership.
Men’s Southern Premiership winners Mosgiel initially opted not to contest promotion, handing Roslyn Wakari the chance through the play-off series.
The southerners are worthy candidates though, having lost just one game all season, and falling at this same hurdle to FC Twenty 11 in the Southern League Promotion play-off last season.
They’ll be out to avenge that heartbreak, and Saturday’s second leg promises to be an intense encounter, fueled by high stakes for either club.
Game to be played on Saturday September 30, 2023
Southern League promotion play-off
UC Football v Roslyn Wakari
English Park, Christchurch, 2.45pm
Teams level 2-2 after first leg
Harrison Ryburn is a Canterbury-based football writer.