Massey University's hopes of a third consecutive women's Central League title hang by a thread when they take on Lower Hutt City at Memorial Park on Sunday.
After two league losses in the past month, as well as a loss in the national knockout semifinal loss in Auckland, Massey now need another result to go their way to secure the title in their final game of the season.
It hasn't been a huge surprise that although Massey were unbeaten until a month ago, and on the verge of celebrating a third championship, that they're now struggling against stronger sides.
The tight formation they displayed over the last two seasons and the first half of this year has slowly dropped off.
On Sunday they'll have an ear to the phone in Wellington while they play a competitive Lower Hutt side, hoping the vastly-improved Wellington United, who tipped up Massey 3-2 last weekend, can at least take a point off Seatoun.
A Massey win and anything other than a win by Seatoun will hand the title back to Massey.
In the men's Central league, Palmerston North Marist haven't been at their best recently, with coach Simon Lees quite vocal in his disappointment at the way his side let a top-five place in the league slip.
Marist are now down in seventh and have a virtual derby game with third-placed Napier City Rovers in Napier on Sunday.
Marist were comfortably beaten in the first league game at Memorial Park, but were desperately unlucky to not win their last-16 Chatham Cup game when the sides met at Park Island, Napier, only going down 5-4 on penalties after the two teams were locked 3-all at fulltime and after extra-time.
Marist have struggled against sides that are well organised, play possession football and play a high defensive game, forcing Marist into errors by not allowing them to bring the ball free of challenges out of defence.
Marist have the players to surprise the Central League's third-placed team, but they'll need to keep Napier playmaker Andy Bevin on a tight leash and not allow the likes of Sam Messam the freedom to run at the Marist defence, which has struggled recently, conceding an average of almost four goals over the past month.
Up front, Marist need to get the ball to Jerram Tuck quickly for him to show his true ability.
- Manawatu Standard
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