Goal fest expected between Marist and Wairarapa
Palmerston North Marist will likely need to score plenty of goals to beat top-of-the-table Wairarapa United in a Central League clash at Masterton on Saturday.
While Marist languish at the bottom of the league after seven games, high-scoring Wairarapa have shot their way to the top of a tight competition.
Marist has managed two strong draws in their last three games, 2-all away to Wellington Olympic and 2-all at home with then league leader Western Suburbs. On both occasions they did enough to win, but failed to capitalise on scoring chances.
Marist, whose defence has been wobbly, conceding 24 goals in their seven games, will need to be a lot tighter against a Wairarapa side that has five wins, amassed 24 goals and has scored at least twice in each of their games.
Even in their two losses, Wairarapa scored a bucket load of goals in going down 4-3 to Olympic and 5-4 to Wellington United.
Wairarapa has attacking players to burn, with former Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill, Sam Mason-Smith, Cory Chettleburgh and Seule Soromon all proven goal scorers.
Marist has defensive frailties and players who just aren't good enough to consistently perform at Central League level, but they have shown if their mind is on the game, they have players who can hurt opposition defences and it appears Wairarapa will have holes for them to exploit.
A more clinical Marist on attack could allow them to return to Palmerston North with something from a game many expect them to lose heavily.
The Marist women's team have a huge game against unbeaten Wellington Women's 'W' League leader Upper Hutt on the turf at Maidstone Park.
Since Marist was beaten 2-1 at Memorial Park in the opening game of the season, Upper Hutt have won every game and only conceded one other goal to lead the competition from Wellington United and Marist, who are five points behind.
Marist will look back on that opening game as one that got away, after having many chances in the second half to win the game, while they halted the Wendi Henderson-coached Upper Hutt from providing anything going forward.
Henderson has to be admired for taking a side of youngsters three years ago that were beaten regularly to a side that is the team to beat.
Upper Hutt does have former international midfielder Sarah Gregorius leading the way, although Marist did halt her attacking play in the first game, something they'll need to do again.
But if they can take their chances, a Marist win will open up the league title race again.
All three Palmerston North men's teams feature in the seven-team Federation League, although they're all a long way of the pace of the top three Havelock North Wanderers (13 points), Wanganui Athletic and New Plymouth Rangers, who are both on 10 points.
Incredibly there's a huge gulf between the top three and the bottom four teams, who all have just three points except Massey University, who are away to Gisborne Thistle and have just one draw.
In the other games, Red Sox-Manawatu host New Plymouth Rangers at Skoglund Park, while Marist Reserves play Wanganui Athletic at Ashhurst Domain.