Wairarapa United stumbled against newbies Havelock North Wanderers last month but Napier City Rovers aren't reading too much into it.

The table-topping Thirsty Whale-sponsored Blues kick off against Wairarapa United in Masterton at 5.30pm today blissfully aware that the hosts have shored their ranks with quality players for the round nine Ultra Football Central League encounter.

"They are getting some players from the O-League either from Team Wellington or Lautoka," says Rovers player/coach Bill Robertson.

Former Vanuatu international defender Brian Kaltack and Cory Chettleburgh are believed returning to the fold after representing losing finalists Lautoka while former Wellington Phoenix striker Hamish Watson returns from champions Team Wellington's campaign.


"Obviously they have a few experienced and O-League players coming back into the mix so they'll probably be the strongest they have been all season so we're pretty mindful of that," says Robertson as they eye another three points to improve on the five-point buffer over Stop Out Sports Club on 16 points.

Wairarapa are sitting in sixth place and have only three wins as the halfway mark of the season beckons this weekend. They lost unceremoniously, 6-2, to the Building King-sponsored Wanderers at Guthrie Park on April 25 in what former Phoenix midfielder Paul Ifill described their effort as "not good enough".

The hosts are coming off an away 2-1 loss to Integration Works Waterside Karori last Saturday.

Despite their indifferent results this winter, Robertson says the injection of players in pivotal positions can make them a threat.

The James Hoyle-captained visitors today have lost only one game, at home to Advance Electrical Western Suburbs on April 22.

They are coming off a 5-2 victory over Lower Hutt City at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, last Sunday and a 6-0 win over lower-tier Palmerston North club North End in a Chatham Cup encounter across the road the previous weekend.

Paul Ifill wasn't impressed with Wairarapa United's performance when they played Havelock North Wanderers in Hastings last month. Photo / File
Paul Ifill wasn't impressed with Wairarapa United's performance when they played Havelock North Wanderers in Hastings last month. Photo / File

Uruguayan striker Martin Bueno has established a one-goal lead in the race for golden boot honours for the Blues.

English import defender Jamie Wilkinson, who broke his toe in the 6-1 victory over Havelock North on May 6, had some light training this week but he is bracketed for the next round.


Former Wanderers midfielder Bjorn Christensen, who has been on a prolonged injury list this year after a stint with Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United in summer, began light training in anticipation of making his debut for the Blues although he played 90 minutes for the club's reserves side last Saturday.

Robertson rules out complacency, saying it'll be crucial to maintain their perch in the second half of the season as teams bolster their stocks.

"We'll certainly need to be at our best to stay at the top of our league."

WAIRARAPA UTD: 1 Scott Morris (GK), 2 Ricardio Morris, 3 Liam Heard, 4 Cameron Lindsay, 5 Daniel Allan, 6 Noah Boyce, 7 Azariah Soromon Val, 9 Seule Soromon, 8 Paul Ifill, 10 Shakille Belle, 11 Callan Elliot (c), 12 Aaron Spierling, 13 Brian Kaltack, 14 Taylor Hall-Jones, 15 Hamish Watson, 16 Tullamore MacFadyen, 17 Mark Hemi.

Coach: Phil Keinzley.

ROVERS: 1 Ruben Parker Hanks (GK), 3 Liam Schofield, 4 Drew Matthews, 5 Kaeden Atkins, 7 Sho Goto, 8 Karan Mandair, 9 Martin Bueno, 10 Patryk Misik, 11 Wesley Cain, 14 Joshua Stevenson, 15 James Hoyle (c), 16 Danny Wilson, 19 Bill Robertson, 20 Zac Madsen, 21 Heath Caldwell (RGK).

Coach: Bill Robertson
Ast coach: Stu James
Team managers: Greg Wall, Jim Neil
Physio: Alex Gairdner
Video analyst: Tim Motu