Defending champions Napier City Rovers shook off a slow start to open their Central League football campaign with a 2-1 victory against North Wellington in Napier today.

"Being a promoted team we knew North Wellington would come here to Bluewater Stadium with the aim of coming out strong early. They were physical and it took our boys a little while to adjust," Rover assistant coach Stu James said afterwards.

North Wellington led 1-0 at halftime.

In his debut for Rovers striker Jonathan McNamara scored the hosts' equaliser in the 70th minute. Japanese striker Sho Goto scored the winner with two minutes remaining.


"I was a relieved man. I would have been a bit reluctant to receive the next phone call from Bill if we hadn't got the three points," James joked referring to player-coach Bill Robertson who was unavailable for the match as he was playing for Team Wellington in today's ISPS Handa Premiership final against Eastern Suburbs.

"We showed a bit of quality in the second half and took our chances. North Wellington still had chances in the second half but couldn't take them. They will cause a lot of problems for teams this season ... they were very well organised and used their counter attacking play well," James said.

Along with McNamara Canadian forward Gavin Hoy operated well up front on debut for the Blues. Defender Kaeden Atkins had a memorable first starting appearance for the hosts.

Atkins is in his first season out of school and is combining a building apprenticeship with his football commitments. James was happy to report his squad didn't collect any injuries in the match.

"We know we have to start better next week. We've just finished talking about that in the changing rooms," James added before television coverage of the premiership final beckoned.