By TERRY MADDAFORD
New Central coach Michael Ridenton is expecting another tough match when he puts his side out for their first home game of the summer national league this afternoon.
Happy to collect the points from a 2-1 away win over Waitakere City in the first round of the Southern Trust-sponsored league, Ridenton is steeling himself for the clash against Napier City Rovers at Kiwitea St.
"Saturday's game against Waitakere was a baptism of fire for me and very nerve-racking," he said.
"It was certainly good to get the points first up. But I'm now expecting a very tough game against Napier."
Aaron Silva's arrival at Kiwitea St has been a bonus for Central. Auckland's Chilean community is expected to add a colourful atmosphere to the ground, which most players admit is the best in the country to play at.
Neither team will be at full strength after a spate of first round suspensions.
Central will be without their defender Stan Morrell and they also have Josh Stick, Matt Fowler and Scott Greenhalgh sidelined with injuries.
Napier, which had All Whites Jonathan Taylor and Shane Smeltz sent off last weekend, also has Shane Cunliffe on the injured list. Former international Andy Rennie is unavailable.
North Shore kicked off their return to the big time with a 3-1 away win over University Mt Wellington. They will meet Waitakere at Allen Hill Stadium this afternoon.
North Shore emerged unscathed from the game at Bill McKinlay Park and this has allowed coach Mickey Byrne to put out a full-strength side.
Waitakere coach Ron Armstrong is far from happy with the ill-discipline that cost his team the points and three red cards in their home game against Central.
"The atmosphere on Saturday was great and really boosted the team," he said. "I think the result also showed that this league might be closer than people have predicted."
Armstrong will be without Shane Gillies and Paul Hobson (both suspended) but should have Chris Gage cleared to play after he had been mistakenly sent off.
University Mt Wellington have the chance to bounce back when they travel to play Manawatu United. Coach Tommy Mason regards this as a must-win game even though it is early in the season. A second loss would leave Uni-Mount six points off the pace.
Tauranga City United travel south to play Canterbury United, aiming to make it two-from-two after winning in Dunedin at the weekend.
The two games in Auckland are due to kick-off at 4 pm.
By TERRY MADDAFORD