PREVIEW: Three-club national qualification battle heats up in Southern League

posted in: News, Southern League

By Logan Smith and Harrison Ryburn

Southern League title holders Christchurch United start the long weekend hosting Ferrymead Bays under lights as the three-club race for two National League places intensifies.

They meet on Thursday night at the United Sports Complex.

The next day, on Matariki, the four remaining fixtures of the round will be played.

Two matches will be broadcast on FIFA+, while Thursday night’s game is to be streamed on Christchurch United’s YouTube channel (see links below).

The first game on Matariki kicks off at midday, with Coastal Spirit facing off against Nelson Suburbs. Spirit have won seven Southern League matches in a row, but the visitors held them to a 3-3 draw in their last matchup.

In Dunedin, an interesting mid-table clash beckons, with the Dunedin City Royals taking on Nomads United.

While Nomads boast a better league season to date, they’ve never beaten the Royals away.

At 2.45pm, it appears to be mission impossible for FC Twenty 11, welcoming Cashmere Technical to Avonhead Park in a top-against-bottom clash.

Selwyn United host UC Football at 3pm, where a win will be precious for whoever can get it.

Game of the week

Away from the top end of the table and the battle for National League qualification, the clash between Selwyn United and UC Football promises to be entertaining.

The sides’ league records have been nearly identical, with both sides beating FC Twenty 11, drawing with Nomads and losing to the rest.

Separating them at the moment are the three points Selwyn won against UC back in April.

While both will be confident of finishing ahead of FC Twenty 11, wins at this level are still rare for them, so expect both teams to put in determined showings.

Players to watch

Lennon Whewell.

Nelson Suburbs were pretty shaky against FC Twenty 11, allowing them their first half-time lead of the Southern League season, but one man who helped avoid the boilover was forward Lennon Whewell.

Whewell (26) arrived at Nelson last year from English club Aintree Villa.

After bagging the first goal on the half-volley within two minutes, Whewell was again impactful later in the game with two precise finishes that guided Suburbs to an eventual 4-2 win.

Coastal Spirit away presents a much tougher assignment though, and Whewell may need to be on his game again to keep Suburbs in the game if the home side are scoring freely.

— Logan Smith

Zander Edwards (19) is another young talent showing his talents in the Southern League with Cashmere Technical.

Schooled at Wellington College, the forward has experience with Lower Hutt City, the Wellington Phoenix Academy and seventh-tier English club Brighouse Town.

He scored the first of two goals in Technical’s 2-0 win over the Royals, his first of the season, and should be given another chance to impress against cellar dwellers FC Twenty 11.

— Harrison Ryburn

Bold predictions

The Dunedin City Royals may sit below Nomads United on the league table, but they will fancy this weekend’s game to get their first win against top-six opposition.

They’ve enjoyed all three of their league wins at home at Tahuna Park, which will also host the clash against Nomads on Friday.

Further, the visitors have a poor record away from Christchurch in their time in the Southern League, with the Royals being one team they have never beaten away.

3-1 to the Royals is my guess.

— Logan Smith

Nelson Suburbs need an away victory at Coastal Spirit on Friday to keep alive their faint National League hopes, as they currently trail the top two by seven points. Realistically the odds are pretty low, but a win over one of the top three could drag them back into the race.

They’ve won three of their last four league games, but have struggled away from home with two consecutive losses on the road.

With Spirit also flying high with eleven wins in a row across all competitions, I’m picking them to make short work of Suburbs with a convincing 4-0 victory at Linfield Park.

— Harrison Ryburn

Golden Boot

18 — Garbhan Coughlan (Cashmere Technical)
12 — Alejandro Steinwascher (Coastal Spirit)
11 — Joel Stevens (Christchurch United)
9 — Lyle Matthysen (Cashmere Technical)
8 — Lennon Whewell (Nelson Suburbs)
7 — Satsuki Ito (Ferrymead Bays), Spencer Barber (Nelson Suburbs), David Yoo (Christchurch United), Trevin Myers (Nelson Suburbs)
6 — Flynn Holdem (Nomads United), Jack Hallahan (Cashmere Technical)


Game to be played on Thursday June 27, 2024

Christchurch United v Ferrymead Bays
United Sports Centre, Christchurch, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Friday June 28, 2024

Coastal Spirit v Nelson Suburbs
Linfield Park, Bromley, 12pm

Dunedin City Royals v Nomads United
Tahuna Park, Dunedin, 2.30pm

FC Twenty 11 v Cashmere Technical
Avonhead Park, Christchurch, 2.45pm

Selwyn United v UC Football
Foster Park, Rolleston, 3pm

Logan Smith

Logan Smith is a passionate football fan and volunteer, based in Dunedin, covering the Southern League.

Harrison Ryburn

Harrison Ryburn is a Canterbury-based football writer.

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