Until last Saturday Palmerston North Marist might have been apprehensive about playing an away Central League match on their home Memorial Park pitch.
With a dominant 3-0 win over Wellington Olympic, their first home win, Marist will be eager to show it wasn't a one-off when they host Wairarapa United at Memorial Park tomorrow.
Wairarapa's home Masterton pitch is not up to scratch and they'll be playing most of their home games at Maidstone Park in Hutt Valley. But this week they take their home game to Memorial Park which almost half their team have called home over the years.
Marist coach Simon Lees admitted that with their strong away and awful home form, they might have preferred playing away from home.
"We've always wanted to make Memorial Park a fortress for ourselves where other teams don't think positively about coming," said Lees. "I think the way we played [last week] shows we can beat anyone.
"It was our best performance all season with everyone contributing and we've now set a standard we need to keep to."
Marist are a different side from the one who narrowly lost to Wairarapa early in the season.
"We conceded quite a few goals from outside the goal area but we've sorted that now, but I think Wairarapa will pose different problems with them having Hamish Watson."
Marist striker Jerram Tuck leads the golden boot with 10 goals but Watson, who made a couple of appearances for Wellington Phoenix in the A League, has already scored seven and will make Wairarapa a greater threat inside the Marist goal area.
Wairarapa are led by Adam Cowan and other key Manawatu players in their line-up include Nathan Cooksley, Solomon Islands striker Seule Soromon and goalkeeper Matt Borren.
In the Federation League last week, North End dented Team Taranaki's title hopes 4-2 and tomorrow they'll be out to do the same to Wanganui Athletic, who are now in the title box seat, at Skoglund Park.
North End must be ruing some poor performances that have blown their shot at the Central League playoffs with likely Wellington winner Stop Out.
Marist Reserves, who beat Red Sox Manawatu last week, will be out to add to their seven points when they meet Havelock North Wanderers also at Skoglund Park.
In a game that could decide the wooden spoon, Red Sox (seven points) meet bottom-placed Feilding (six points) at Timona Park, a venue where Feilding appear to grow an extra leg. Massey University take another step towards their third women's Central League title when they meet Upper Hutt in Hutt Valley.
Although they've kept on winning comfortably, Massey coach Kyle Jensen will be asking his side to step up their intensity as they build towards the national knockout semifinal with the powerful Glenfield Rovers in Auckland on July 19.
Valeron Wanderers keep improving but will be keen to turn good efforts into points when they meet fourth-placed Wellington United at Memorial Park on Sunday.
- Manawatu Standard
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