PREVIEW: Pressure goes on National League contenders in Central League

posted in: Central League, News

By Luke Austin

A narrow victory over Western Suburbs means defending champions Wellington Olympic have opened an eight-point lead at the top of the Central League table.

This leaves the trio of Wests, Napier City Rovers and Miramar Rangers all fighting for a place on the podium and for a spot in this year’s National League.

As the Wellington Phoenix are guaranteed a spot in the National League, only three other clubs can qualify.

This Saturday, fourth-placed Miramar take on second-placed Wests.

A win for Miramar would see the two sides move level on points, but a loss could see them drop out of contention for the all-important top three.

Leaders Olympic are away to Karori, who shipped seven goals in a heavy loss to Napier City Rovers last time out.

The Wharfies were putting together a solid season until then and were pushing for National League qualification though that now seems a step too far.

Napier could be in for another big win when they travel to Hutt Park to take on bottom side Stop Out, whose tough season continued with a loss in their crucial game with North Wellington in round 10.

Striker Oscar Faulds scored another hattrick to take his goal tally to 17 in the Central League this season. He currently sits atop the Golden Boot leaderboard, two goals ahead of West’s Lucas Meek.

Sam Lack scored a cracking goal for Napier in the win, and it’s been judged NZ Football’s Goal of the Week.

The Phoenix Reserves play at home against North Wellington, who have become somewhat of a bogey team for the academy side.

North Wellington pulled off a surprise win over the Phoenix towards the end of the 2023 season, which essentially saved them from relegation, and more recently, they came away from Fraser Park with a 4-1 victory in the Chatham Cup.

The eighth-placed side will hope for a second league win on the bounce, which would represent a huge step towards safety this season.

Island Bay United, who have dropped to ninth spot following a heavy defeat away to Miramar, host Petone at Wakefield Park.

The Bay have only won twice this season, with the first against Petone in April. They need points this weekend to pull away from Stop Out and ease relegation fears.

Game of the week

With the title race all but over, the battle for the two remaining National League places remains as tight as ever.

As it stands, Wests and Napier are on 25 points and Miramar closely follow on 22. Napier’s game in hand gives them the upper hand, meaning it is likely Wests and Napier will be left to battle it out.

These two sides meet at Endeavour Park this weekend in a game which looks set to be a cracker.

Josh Tollervey (left) competes for the ball with Auckland City’s Adam Mitchell in the Northern League. Tollervey has left Auckland United to join Miramar Rangers. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Player to watch

Among a flurry of mid-season Central League transfers was the arrival of Josh Tollervy (20) at Miramar Rangers.

The former Phoenix reserves striker has signed from Auckland United, for whom he scored seven goals in the Northern league this season.

After playing youth football in the Waikato with Cambridge and Melville United, Tollervey headed south to play for Lower Hutt City and the Phoenix reserves.

Last summer, he was set to join Melbourne club Preston Lions but instead joined Auckland United.

He will be one to follow as Miramar push for a spot in the top three.

Bold prediction

After backing North Wellington last week and seeing them secure a big win over Stop Out, I’m picking they will cause more trouble for the Phoenix Reserves this time out.

I would not be surprised to see the Johnsonville-based team return home with all three points as they continue to turn their season around.

Golden Boot

17 — Oscar Faulds (Napier City Rovers)
15 — Lucas Meek (Western Suburbs)
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 Bobadilla (Miramar Rangers)


Games to be played on Saturday June 29, 2024

Stop Out v Napier City Rovers
Hutt Park, Upper Hutt, 2.45pm

Waterside Karori v Wellington Olympic
Karori Park, Karori, 2.45pm

Western Suburbs v Miramar Rangers
Endeavour Park, Whitby, 2.45pm

Wellington Phoenix Reserves v North Wellington
Fraser Park, Taita, 3pm

Island Bay United v Petone
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 3pm

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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