PREVIEW: Central League top three keep winning as season reaches midpoint

posted in: Central League, News

By Luke Austin

Only goal difference separates Wellington Olympic, Western Suburbs and Napier City Rovers on the Central League table, with all three collecting maximum returns last weekend.

The top three all have seven wins from eight rounds, but the balance of power is bound to change with Sunday’s big clash between Napier and Wests at Bluewater Stadium.

Round 9 gets underway with a 1pm kick-off at Wakefield Park between Island Bay and the Phoenix Reserves.

The Bay will be confident after their crucial win against Stop Out last weekend, and they’ll fancy they can get more points on the board.

The Phoenix Reserves have had an inconsistent first half of the season but may benefit from the availability of some fringe first-team players, such as Fin Conchie and Luke Supyk, now the men’s A-League season is over.

Waterside Karori are back in action at Martin Luckie Park, where they host Petone.

The Wharfies conceded three late goals, which saw a 3-1 lead turn into a 3-4 loss to Miramar Rangers at David Farrington Park last weekend.

Waterside Karori … they host Petone in round 9 after losing 4-3 last weekend to Miramar Rangers.

Petone’s struggles this season were laid bare as they fell to a 1-5 loss at home to a 9-man Olympic in round 8.

Stop Out are in desperate need of a result but face a tough game against Miramar Rangers at Hutt Park. They remain last, but a win could quickly change the picture, with North Wellington only two points ahead.

Miramar are fourth and will know a top-three finish is most likely required for National League qualification this season, given that the Phoenix Reserves are assured of a spot, regardless of their table standing.

Defending champions Wellington Olympic welcome North Wellington to Wakefield Park, where another big win for the Greeks would be no surprise.

With the top three being so tight, goal difference is proving valuable, and Olympic certainly have the firepower to extend their advantage in goal differential.

North Wellington fared better than expected at home to Napier but were unable to hold onto a 2-0 lead and fell to a narrow loss. A result against the defending champions would be a huge achievement for the 9th-placed club.

Game of the week

Sunday’s meeting between Napier City Rovers and Western Suburbs is one of the biggest games of the season so far.

Both sides are on 21 points with Wests’ superior goal difference placing them second, ahead of the Blues.

Sam Lack.

Wests do have a game in hand, meaning a win for Napier would be huge in their bid to challenge Olympic for top spot.

With the league’s three top goalscorers — Oscar Faulds, Lucas Meek and Hamish Watson — all in action, this game could be a real spectacle for the fans.

Player to watch

Young Napier midfielder Sam Lack found himself at the centre of attention a fortnight ago when he scored a dramatic last-minute goal to snatch all three points off Petone.

He has been a key presence in the heart of the in-form Napier side and will be looking for another big performance in the crucial game against Wests this Sunday.

Bold prediction

Island Bay will be feeling ambitious heading into their meeting with the Phoenix Reserves this Saturday. The two sides met only a few weeks ago, with the Phoenix coming away with a narrow win.

I’m backing the Bay to find a bit of form and claim the win this time out.

Goal of the week

A goal from Island Bay United’s Henry Lenihan-Geels was chosen as last week’s NZ Football Goal of the Week.

Golden Boot

13 — Oscar Faulds (Napier City Rovers)
11 — Lucas Meek (Western Suburbs)
9 — Hamish Watson (Wellington Olympic)
7 — Jesse Randall (Wellington Olympic), Sam Mason-Smith (Miramar Rangers)
6 — Jack O’Connor (Petone)
5— Miles Green (Western Suburbs), Nicolas Bobadilla (Miramar Rangers)


Games to be played on Saturday May 25, 2024

Island Bay United v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 1pm

Stop Out v Miramar Rangers
Hutt Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm

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

Wellington Olympic v North Wellington
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 3.45pm

Games to be played on Sunday May 26, 2024

Napier City Rovers v Western Suburbs
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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