PREVIEW: Goal difference splits top three as Central League title race heats up

posted in: Central League, News

By Luke Austin

Miramar Rangers were the only unbeaten team in the Central League before last weekend’s clash with Napier City Rovers but a narrow loss and an incredibly tight leaderboard has seen them drop all the way to fourth.

Defending champions Wellington Olympic are back on top following a big win over neighbours Island Bay United while Western Suburbs and Napier make up the rest of the top three.

Goal difference alone separates the three clubs, who all sit on 15 points.

Island Bay are back in action away to Waterside Karori following a disappointing 2-1 midweek defeat to the Wellington Phoenix Reserves. The Bay scored first but were unable to hold on, missing a good opportunity to pull away further from Stop Out at the bottom of the ladder.

Karori continued their good recent form with a third win on the bounce last Saturday and will want to extend their streak on Saturday.

Winless Stop Out host the Phoenix Reserves at Hutt Park, and a win which could see them climb from 10th place.

Lukas Meek.

Western Suburbs are away to North Wellington and will be without their two standout American imports, Charles Ostrem and Lucas Meek as the pair will serve suspensions following red cards last weekend.

READ MORE: Red cards earn Central League bans for Western Suburbs’ American imports >>>>

Incredibly, Wests scored three goals after going down to 10 men, then scored two more after going down to nine men.

Wests eventually won 5-1 against Stop Out. They will be firm favourites at Alex Moore Park in the 4pm kick-off.

Napier City Rovers, who haven’t lost since the opening round, welcome Petone to Bluewater Stadium on Sunday.

The Blues rushed out of the gates at David Farrington Park last weekend, going three up over table-topping Miramar inside the opening 20 minutes. Miramar pulled two back before half-time, but Napier managed to hold on for a huge win.

Petone secured a much-needed win at home over North Wellington last weekend but will need to be at their very best to come away with anything from Napier.

Game of the week

Long-time rivals Olympic and Miramar meet for the first time this season at Wakefield Park.

Back to their best following a difficult 2023, Miramar will be looking for revenge over the Greeks, who embarrassed them 0-7 at David Farrington the last time the sides met.

Expect a much closer game this Saturday, along with a big crowd on the bank at Wakefield.

With so little separating the sides near the top of the table, this crucial game is a must-watch for fans in Wellington.

Auckland City’s Cam Howieson (left) and Wellington Olympic’s Jesse Randall battle for midfield possession. Both players have been subjects of speculation that they’ll join new A-League club Auckland FC. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Player to watch

Jesse Randall (21) is back at Wellington Olympic in 2024 following a stint playing for USL side Charleston Battery.

Though nothing is confirmed, it is rumoured the former North Wellington player will be announced as a signing for new A-League club Auckland FC later this year.

He’s also got the incentive of performing well enough to earn selection for the national U-23 team to go to the Summer Olympics in Paris.

The powerful and direct winger has been in fine form this season, scoring five goals and causing defenders all sorts of problems.

Miramar will have a tough task on their hands if they want to keep him quiet on Saturday.

Bold prediction

I’m predicting Olympic and Miramar will put on a bit of a show at Wakefield. My pick is a close but high scoring affair, with 5+ goals and the result going either way.

Wellington Olympic striker Hamish Watson … has scored seven goals in six rounds. Photo credit: OFC Media / Phototek.

Golden Boot

11 — Oscar Faulds (Napier City Rovers)
10 — Lucas Meek (Western Suburbs)
7 — Hamish Watson (Wellington Olympic)
6 — Sam Mason-Smith (Miramar Rangers)
5 — Jesse Randall (Wellington Olympic), Nicolas Bobadilla (Miramar Rangers)
4 — Jack O’Conner (Petone), Jack Parker (Waterside Karori), Jonny McNamara (Napier City Rovers), Luke Supyk (Wellington Phoenix Reserves)


Games to be played on Saturday May 11, 2024

Stop Out v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Hutt Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm

Waterside Karori v Island Bay United
Martin Luckie Park, Berhampore, 2.30pm

Wellington Olympic v Miramar Rangers
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 3.45pm

North Wellington v Western Suburbs
Alex Moore Park, Johnsonville, 4pm

Games to be played on Sunday May 12, 2024

Napier City Rovers v Petone
Bluewater Stadium, Napier, 1pm

Luke Austin

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

More football stories