If Central Football Manawatu want to cast GJ Gardner Wanganui Athletic as the villains of the piece, then the Jason King-coached squad will just laugh and wear those black hats.

The third-placed Lotto Federation League team heads south to Skoglund Park this afternoon to meet table leaders North End AFC in the feature match at the end of the first round of games.

On the CF Manawatu official Facebook page promoting the event, the question is asked if the "People's Team" of North End can prevail, or will the three competition points be "headed back up the river" with Athletic.

King is having fun with the imagery of the veteran North End squad waiting like good Christian knights on the hill top while the evil Viking pirates of his young Athletic side come marauding down the river to raid the village.


"I don't mind being called a pirate, I enjoy the odd rum," he laughed.

"They are the self proclaimed 'people's team' – that's one thing.

"They seem to love calling themselves the people's team, good on them, it's a tagline."

Misguided symbolism aside, Athletic need to continue their momentum from last weekend's 6-0 walkover against the Red Sox if they want to keep pace with leaders North End and the current second placed Palmerston North Marist, on 15 and 14 points respectively.

Beat North End and Athletic will still be behind them, as they currently sit five points back, but they will have closed the gap and will re-emerge in the conversation over who claims the league title at the end of the season.

Marist likewise have to take the very long trip from Palmerston North to New Plymouth this afternoon.

"Rangers could do everyone a favour by taking points off them, even snatching a draw," said King.

"It's an important match for us...just in preparations for that final round."


Athletic will not know until this morning if the match will be played, as the week's wet and wild weather has seen all junior and senior football cancelled except for the league and Horizons Premiership games.

King spoke with Massey coach and Central Football staff member Donald Piper who told him that Skoglund Park is already looking in rough shape, raising the possibility of postponing to Queen's Birthday Weekend as neither side has an elimination cup game.

However, King would rather play today as he can confirm his full lineup, who are all in good nick after the last month of games.

Looking across the paddock, there are some noteworthy names like double sports standouts Bryn Cleaver and Tim Richards, who are Manawatu cricket representatives, while Nathan Cooksley played Central League level last year and is currently tied with Athletic's Quinn Mailman on the Golden Boot standings with seven, two behind leader Nick Carrick of Hokowhitu.

King also noted you can never tell when expat Whanganui player Zane Robinson will turn up, as he often makes a habit of being available to face his old townmates in Athletic and Versatile Wanganui City.

"If he ends up playing, he's another player that's quite capable as well."

Back at Wembley Park, City coach Kelvin Francis was crossing his fingers they can still get on the pitch today to face the winless Red Sox, as a confidence building performance is crucial before the long trip to Napier next weekend for the Lotto Federation Cup fixture with Eskview United.

"We really want to play, we want another hit out. We really need to refine some things," Francis said.

"We should come away with the points, but last year Red Sox spoiled the party.

"It seems we're starting to click and we're starting to play the football we want to play."

The team is looking to build on giving Marist something to think about in last Saturday's 3-2 defeat, while they are reinforced by the return of Kyle Graham-Luke from his achilles injury, and he could also use some time on grass before the Eskview game.

Marcus Jones is also available after his apprentice work has previously taken him out of town, and rejoins the bench.

Francis went and inspected the Wembley grounds yesterday and although some of the rain missed Whanganui East, he said the No1 pitch is not in the best of shape.

They could possibly play the match on one of the side fields if they get the go ahead.

The GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic Reserves are also scheduled to play Feilding United on Wembley Park No2 in the Horizons Premiership.

All three games start at 2.45pm.

In tomorrow's GR Engineering Women's Federation League, Football Whanganui are playing away against Taradale AFC, with kickoff 1pm.