Soccer: Just three hurdles to clear for Rovers

By Craig Stephen

It's a hard task but it's a simple one: if Napier City Rovers can win their final three games they will pick up their first Central League title since 2004.

However, their opponents in those three games are also their main challengers.

The drought came a step closer to ending on Saturday when they defeated Western Suburbs 3-0 in Porirua, a game manager Malcolm Wilson said beforehand was "a watershed game".

A brace from Cole Peverley and one from Stephen Hoyle were enough to seal three points at Endeavour Park on a rare warm day in the Wellington region, though it took an age for them to get settled.

Napier now sit four points behind Wairarapa in the table, but with a game in hand, while Wellington Olympic are a point ahead of Rovers having played once more.

The permutations are lengthy but they will be all be meaningless if Napier can beat both Olympic and Wairarapa, as well as Miramar Rangers, whose own title hopes appear to have gone in a 3-2 home defeat to Wairarapa at the weekend.

But a loss to Wairarapa will almost certainly hand the league leaders the title.

The Napier side do have a handsome advantage with all three games being held at home.

If it sounds simple, coach Grant Hastings was no under illusions about the magnitude of what they have to achieve.

"It was a vital win, a very vital win in the context of what's coming up. We now have three huge games at home so to come here and get three points is absolutely massive. The last time we won here was probably about five years ago which shows how much we've developed."

Napier have also recorded impressive wins at Tawa, Petone and Lower Hutt this season, pitches on which they've struggled to get even a point in the recent past.

Western Suburbs may be out of the reckoning but they are far from easy-beats and Napier had star striker Jarrod Smith suspended, while Fergus Neil and Reiner Bauerfiend were both ill.

Hastings was a relieved man at the full-time whistle.

"We started patiently, but we didn't care if they passed us off the pitch. We took ten minutes to get going and then I thought we passed the ball well. We grew as the game went on."

Actually, it seemed that Napier took a little longer to get into the match, with a half chance coming on the quarter hour mark from Cole Peverley's well-struck free kick.

Wests applied a lot of pressure, making it hard for the visitors to create space or get into a rhythm.

But it always felt like Napier would score the first, and so they did, just before half time, Stephen Hoyle stretching his leg to get to a high ball from a corner and forcing it into the net. Wests were furious that a corner had been given, giving dog's abuse to the assistant referee, resulting in Trent Watson seeing yellow.

In the two minutes before the interval, Wests keeper Matt Borren twice had to tip the ball over the bar. After the break the pressure continued with defender Regan Cameron missing an absolute sitter and Hoyle putting the ball in the net again, but referee John Rowbury chalked it off, after seeing Hoyle push a defender.

Rowbury then rightfully gave Napier a free kick for a poor foul by Borren on Josh Stevenson. Cole Peverley's free kick on the edge of the box took a massive deflection from a defender for a two-nil lead.

Then, deep into injury time, the former All White scored again, lobbing the ball into the net from long range.

Napier have done the hard graft, winning scrappy games, and toughing it out. But now the real work begins with what is essentially three cup-ties in successive weeks.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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