PREVIEW: Focus turns to Central League relegation scrap as bottom pair meet

posted in: Central League, News

By Luke Austin

Defending champions Wellington Olympic have opened up a five-point lead at the top of the Central League.

A win against title hopefuls Napier City Rovers in round 10, followed by a comeback victory over the Wellington Phoenix Reserves in a midweek catch-up fixture, have given Olympic a mid-season boost.

With the bottom three clubs struggling for points, this Saturday’s clash between North Wellington and Stop Out is hugely significant for both sides.

Round 11 action gets underway on Saturday with Island Bay United taking on Miramar Rangers at David Farrington Park.

Henry Lenihan-Geels.

Struggling Island Bay have had a tough few weeks, with long-serving player Henry Lenihan-Geels moving overseas and their top goal scorer this season, Stefan Ashby, moving to neighbours Wellington Olympic.

A loss against the Phoenix Reserves in round 10 dented Miramar’s hopes of a top-three finish but they remain firmly in the picture. They will be favourites to come away with a win against the Bay.

Western Suburbs host Olympic at Endeavour Park and will hope to fare better than they did during their 0-5 loss to the Greeks last weekend in the Chatham Cup.

For the sake of a competitive title race, this is really a must-win game for second-placed Wests, but it would be no surprise to see Olympic come away with a 10th league win in a row.

Petone are at home against the Phoenix Reserves in what should be an entertaining game between two sides who look to play a fluid style of football.

The Phoenix got off to a flier in their midweek match against Olympic, going up 3-0 but they disappointingly allowed the opposition back into the game and ended up crumbling to a 3-5 defeat.

On Sunday, fourth-placed place Waterside Karori travel to Bluewater Stadium to face Napier City Rovers, who are third.

The Wharfies have played their way into the battle for National League qualification and a win over their Hawkes Bay opponents could make things interesting for the remainder of the season.

Game of the week

Alex Moore Park plays host to a crucial fixture between the two bottom clubs, North Wellington and Stop Out, this Saturday.

Stop Out remain winless but showed they can compete with teams at this level with a penalty shootout win over Petone in the Chatham Cup last week.

North Wellington are three points ahead of their opponents and could leapfrog Island Bay and move into 8th position with a win.

Both clubs know the points on offer will make a huge difference come the end of the season and that could be the difference between safety and relegation.

Wellington Olympic’s Gianni Bouzoukis … back with the Central League champions after a stint in Australia. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Player to watch

In a similar scenario to last year, Olympic goalscorer Gianni Bouzoukis (25) has returned home to the Greeks following a short stint overseas.

The forward has spent the beginning of the season at Sydney NPL Club NWS Spirit.

While things didn’t seem to work out across the ditch, he has wasted no time getting back to business in the Central League, finding the back of the net on Wednesday night after coming off the bench in the second half.

Do not be surprised to see him amongst the goals again this weekend.

Bold prediction

North Wellington have picked up only one win so far this season, but recent performances suggest their young squad may be clicking into gear.

A draw with fourth-placed Waterside Karori followed by a narrow loss to Napier in the Chatham Cup will provide the side with confidence coming into their crucial meeting with Stop Out.

I’m predicting they will comfortably beat their opponents this Saturday and earn some breathing room at the bottom of the table.

Golden Boot

15 — Lucas Meek (Western Suburbs)
14 — Oscar Faulds (Napier City Rovers)
9 — Hamish Watson (Wellington Olympic)
8 — Jack O’Connor (Petone)
7— Tomas Alvarado (Waterside Karori), Jesse Randall (Wellington Olympic), Sam Mason-Smith (Miramar Rangers)
6 — Tor Davenport Petersen (Wellington Olympic)
5 — Miles Green (Western Suburbs), Nicolas Bobadillar (Miramar Rangers)


Games to be played on Saturday June 22, 2024

Miramar Rangers v Island Bay United
David Farrington Park, Miramar, 2.30pm

Western Suburbs v Wellington Olympic
Endeavour Park, Whitby, 2.30pm

Petone v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Petone Memorial Park, Petone, 3pm

North Wellington v Stop Out
Alex Moore Park, Johnsonville, 4pm

Game to be played on Sunday June 23, 2024

Napier City Rovers v Waterside Karori
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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