It wasn't a case of whether Napier City Rovers were going to prevail but more one of by how many goals when they hosted Wellington United in Napier today.

The answer, my friends was blowing the gusty northerlies so when that subsided in 90-plus minutes the result was an emphatic 6-1 to the Thirsty Whale-sponsored Blues.

The Fergus Neil-captained hosts had led 3-1 at halftime in round 14 of the Central League match at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, but the second-half goals didn't come that easy.

Desperation was a given for both sides with the Rovers needing to maintain their top-rung perch on the ladder as defending champions in the hunt for a double as Chatham Cup quarterfinalists while last-placed Wellington United are trying to stave off relegation in the league as a feeder club to Wellington Phoenix in the A-League.

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"We knew they were going to be quite hard to break down even though they are a team sitting at the bottom of the league because they tend to get numbers behind the ball," said Neil, revealing the halftime chat was about playing a game of patience that would eventually see gaps opening up on the park.

He didn't think the rain, mostly in the first half, and the stiff wind were a factor although the men in orange ran into the elements at the hockey turf end in the first 45 minutes.

"We were lucky we got that so I took the wind behind us in the first half to get us off to a good start and put them under pressure early," he said.

Rovers captain Fergus Neil is down but not out in frustrating Wellington United player Luke Bayliss during the Central League match at Park Island, Napier, today. Photo/Ian Cooper
Rovers captain Fergus Neil is down but not out in frustrating Wellington United player Luke Bayliss during the Central League match at Park Island, Napier, today. Photo/Ian Cooper

United goalkeeper Crawford Plenderleith would have given his coach, Rapha Christians, a few heart palpitations when he chested the ball down in the 10th minute before a feeble miscued clearance that miraculously found a defender although the men in orange did remarkably well to amass enough diagonal passes to bring the ball out all the way to the opposition's 18m box.

However, Rovers went up 1-0 five minutes later when Sho Goto drilled the ball into the net past Plenderleith after left wing back Liam Schofield had initiated a line of attack on his flank before the ball fell kindly inside the 18m box.

It was the Japanese import's ninth league goal, five of them on the road.

"I'm trying my best but it looks like I seem to be scoring more away from home," a grinning Goto said through an interpreter but emphasised it was always about the team marching towards the double and regaining the league crown.

Jonny McNamara, who didn't add to his season tally of 10 goals, had two chances to extend the lead, including one in the 22nd minute when all he had to do was slip it past Plenderleith, pushed it instead into the keeper's gloves.

Nevertheless, the goal came at the other end, 1-1, when Dutch striker Bart Oosterbroek left Rovers goalkeeper Joshua Hill stranded with a shot that clipped a defender's torso to change direction. Wellington United forager Manyumow Achol had done all the hard work on the left flank before worming his way towards the box to feed with the goal-defining pass.

The hosts were stung into action with a series of raids which saw midfielder Gavin Hoy draw a foul on the left end of the 18m box before curling it into the net past the orange wall for a 2-1 lead in the 31st minute.

It was the turn of the Rovers camp to reach for the heart pills when defender James Hoyle tapped the ball back to Hill but it didn't seem to have enough revolutions although the goalkeeper reacted smartly to beat Oosterbroek to it in the 37th minute.

The Blues weren't done, with Schofield extending the lead to 3-1 when he showed the agility and vision of a winger in following up on fellow Englishman McNamara's speculator from an obtuse angle on the right sideline to pounce on Plenderleith's fumble in the 42nd minute.

The frustration started to emerge in the opposition ranks with referee Martin Roil flashing Oosterbroek a yellow card for a challenge from behind near the main stand sideline on Blues centreback Bill Robertson a minute later.

The pressure didn't dissipate for Wellington in the second spell with waves of attack and little returns until Karan Mandair extended the lead to 4-1 after the centre-mid rifled a header into the net from a cornerkick in the 72nd minute.

Roil flashed a yellow card at Mandair a minute later when play resumed but the Blues faithful gave the whistle blower some advice on the difference between feisty footy and Tiddlywinks.

Blues assistant coach Stu James rolled on teenager Ethan Clarke for Mandair 10 minutes after youngster Samuel Wall had come in for Schofield and veteran Joshua Stevenson for Hoy in the 62nd minute.

Neil made it 5-1 with a don't-argue cannonball shot in the 76th minute and a mercy rule of sorts started beckoning.

However, Roil wasn't done and didn't tolerate any back chat. While it's unclear if expletives were part of the sentence structure Stevenson got a yellow card and Achol a straight red card in the dying minutes.

Clarke provided a timely distraction from the silly antics when he curled a blinder from the edge of the 18m box in two minutes of the ref's time for the final result.

Rovers winger Joshua Stevenson puts the heat on fellow Wellington United substitute Hector Fablo during their Central League match in Napier today. Photo/Ian Cooper
Rovers winger Joshua Stevenson puts the heat on fellow Wellington United substitute Hector Fablo during their Central League match in Napier today. Photo/Ian Cooper

Neil said it was imperative players showed discipline.

"I'm not sure what happened there but I think Josh had a slight disagreement there with the referee and that happens a lot these days so, I think, it's just about staying a little composed because you aren't always going to agree with the referee and we need to let it go sometimes," he said.

Coach Christians said his team had to toil with the group of players in trying to stay in the league.

"They hung in as long as they could but, ultimately, Napier City's got a lot more quality and that will eventually shine through," he said.

Wellington United didn't want all the pressure mounting on one game so the hunt for a point wouldn't be any different in the remaining four matches, including fellow strugglers Wairarapa United next.

"We've just got to be a little smarter with the ball and make some better decisions although now we'll have to do it without Manyumow," he said.

Mindful former Phoenix linchpin Paul Ifill will be doing his homework but Christians said his men would treat it as another game and another week.

"We've got some players who are up for that game, the club has been behind us and the boys are working hard so the three points will come."

Asked if Achol's sending off was justified, Christians said the player had used abusive language which warranted a red card.

"But for 90 minutes, whether we like it or not, there's foul language on this field so why pick that one for the red card?

"The referee's got the right [to do that] but why that one? It's either all red or none but you can't just pick one."

Christians thanked the Rovers for their hospitality and wished them all the best in their campaign.

Referee Martin Roil sees red after Manyumow Achol swore as Rovers player/coach Bill Roberston walks away. Photo/Ian Cooper
Referee Martin Roil sees red after Manyumow Achol swore as Rovers player/coach Bill Roberston walks away. Photo/Ian Cooper