Red Sox-Manawatu will need to get any rustiness out of their system quickly if they're to carry on their winning way in the Western Premiership against Team Taranaki at Memorial Park tomorrow.
Red Sox sit on top of the league with Wanganui City and Palmerston North Marist, but have only played one game in the last three weeks, while Taranaki and Marist have played continuously.
Red Sox coach Aaron Clegg was concerned at the length of time his team has been sitting around and will be keen to use the side's pace, especially up front with Jerram Tuck, Dane Cleaver and Caleb Gaylard, to exploit the, at times, slow Taranaki defence.
Taranaki look destined to finish fourth in the league.
But with the top four sides each to play only one game against the other when the top-four playoffs start at the end of the second round, they'll be aware they need to win against Red Sox, then Marist and Wanganui City to stand a realistic chance of winning the league.
Red Sox, on the other hand, need to keep winning and with games against both Marist and Wanganui City to still play before the playoffs, they have the hardest draw of the top teams.
North End has been the league's underachiever and they can only help their fellow sides if they finally put together an effort at home against Wanganui City at Skoglund Park. Unfortunately North End may have the ability to trouble the top sides but they have rarely threatened to put in a good performance on the pitch this season.
Marist will be desperate to get three points against Palmerston North Boys' High School, who finally struck form and won the Super 8 competition in New Plymouth last week.
But with a league game last Saturday and five school games between Sunday and Tuesday, they could be forgiven for running out of steam tomorrow.
Although Marist are level top, they have played two more games than Red Sox and Wanganui City so anything less than a win would be disastrous for them.
In the battle of the wooden-spooners, Wanganui Athletic host Feilding AFC at Wembley Park in Wanganui, with both sides having shown some form in recent games.
Massey University have opened up a five-point lead at the top of the women's Central League and don't expect the opposition to get any closer after Sunday's ninth round.
Massey should record their ninth win from as many games when Wellington Marist come to play at Memorial Park at 1pm.
Massey coach Simon Lees is looking for his side to keep building towards next month's national knockout cup semifinal against Claudelands Rovers in Hamilton.
Valeron Wanderers began the season looking to stay away from bottom place and getting relegated, but now sit firmly in the middle of the table with nine points and only one loss in their last five games.
They do have a difficult task on Sunday when they travel to second-placed Seatoun, to whom they lost comfortably at home, but coach Craig Newell believes they can get something from the game.
"We're a lot more confident side now," he said. "We're good enough to challenge any side now."
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