The fourth and final chapter of the Devon Homes Wanganui Athletic vs New Plymouth Rangers 2017 rivalry will "certainly" guarantee some high drama at Wembley Park this afternoon.

The 2-1 loss by Rangers to table-toppers Havelock North last weekend has confirmed Havelock will rein supreme over the Lotto Federation League this season, being well clear by six points while Rangers still have a bye remaining.

However, five points further back after Rangers got an extra three points previously held up while a protest over a game with Marist was reviewed, it is still mathematically possible for Athletic to sign off on a season which has seen them return to respectability by coming second overall.

Whatever happens on the table, today is the day to square the ledger with the Taranaki team, who hold the advantage 2-1 over them after three matches that have all been thrillers.


Athletic coach Jason King would even like to claim superiority in the rivalry, given the squads have split the victories in League play.

The other Athletic loss was a 4-3 defeat in extra time during the knockout Chatham Cup when Rangers were laden with extra players from Central League's Team Taranaki.

"Just the League, certainly, it's the decider," King said.

"We'll certainly take the bragging rights.

"If we get the win it certainly proves that first game [2-1 loss in April], we didn't have the numbers there, we were young guys.

"We certainly give the spectators their money's worth. What was it in the last game, nine goals scored?"

That was Athletic's 5-4 win in June, which followed the same script as the previous matches except it rewrote the climax to the third act.

In every game, Rangers go out to lead by a couple of goals before Athletic come roaring back at them.

"It will be one of those games if let the chances go begging, the other side will capitalise on that," said King.

"The guys want this. We've still got the whole 'undefeated at Wembley', if you don't count Chatham Cup."

Today matches up 2017's most prolific goal scorers, as Athletic's Ryan Holden (16) would love to run down the "fleet of foot" Sam De St Croix (19), who rumour has it could be joining Hamilton Wanderers AFC in the National League this summer.

"We've got to be wary of him, he did score some special goals against us likes time," said King.

"[Ryan], it would be better if he could reach 20, but teams are starting to target him.

"But that's good - we've got nine other players than can put the ball in the back of the net."

Coming off the bye, Athletic is bolstered by the timely return of Quinn Mailman from his English vacation, and the teenager was able to fit in a couple of games for Whanganui High School during the week.

"That was my concern - jet lag and time differences - but it sounds like he was pretty sharp out there," said King.

While Scott Burney did not break his recent dry spell without goals by turning out for the GVCA Wanganui Athletic Reserves last weekend, King knows he is still creating chances which others can then put away, and is one of the squad's strongest when it comes to distributing and holding off defenders.

Kickoff is 2.45pm

Meanwhile, Big Orange Wanganui City 1sts coach Kelvin Francis is wondering what on earth will be awaiting his team when they arrive at Timona Park this afternoon to face Feilding United 1sts as the Horizons Premiership is coming down to the wire.

One point behind Hokowhitu FC Rangers but with a superior goal differential of four, City were confident they were still on track when they beat Levin 8-1 last weekend, only to learn Rangers had slaughtered middle-of-the-table Feilding by 13-0.

Now behind on points and differential, the City senior players discussed the lopsided scoreline with Francis at training, given they were otherwise expecting a much tougher game today after barely getting past Feilding 2-1 with a late goal in their last meeting.

"We thought it was a stitch up.

"We know that it's going to be physical and it's going to be tough and we know it's going to be wet."

Francis talked with Manawatu football management this week because the water table in the region is very hight currently, with a number of junior matches having already been called off.

Boggy conditions will favour the home side, but Francis is confident the team has learned from their previous encounter as well as last week when it took a little while to get traction.

"The plan this week is to go, be patient, keep the ball and make them work.

"Draw them out to get behind them."

Jack Jonas has not been well, but with father Danny being the coach of the team, he will be dragged out of bed to at least be on the reserves bench, with Simon Petersen moving into the starting lineup.

In a wider City FC decision, Jason Fergusson will stay home to help the depleted City Hammers squad, who are contenders for their local league title.

Otherwise, the squad is the same from the Levin win, as Anthony Bell and Kyle Graham-Luke are working their way back to maximum conditioning after previously returning from groin injury and suspension respectively.

After a long layoff for suspension, City's Kyle Graham-Luke will want to be hitting his straps in the away clash with Feilding today.
After a long layoff for suspension, City's Kyle Graham-Luke will want to be hitting his straps in the away clash with Feilding today.

City will also be hoping that North End can pull off a miracle and at least earn a tie against Hokowhitu at Skoglund Park.

In the other Premiership game, Athletic Reserves will face Massey Celtic at Wembley Park in a battle of 9th vs 8th.

And Football Whanganui will sign off their debut season in the GR Engineering Women's Federation League against Palmerston North Marist Women's Reserves at Wembley tomorrow afternoon.