Wanaka, Queenstown fighting for final spot

Nine will become four this weekend.

Wanaka and Queenstown will host the decisive matches in the weekend’s first round of the Southern Premier League on Saturday.

The games were still planned to go ahead as of yesterday, although under Covid-19 Alert Level 2 protocols if needed.

The two teams are scrapping for the last spot in the top four.

From next weekend the league splits. The top four teams play each other twice more, while the bottom five will play a single round-robin among themselves.

At present, Wanaka holds the advantage on 12 points in fourth, two points ahead of Queenstown.

Neither have easy games, though.

Wanaka hosts third-placed Otago University, which is on 15 points.

Queenstown has an even tougher task.

It needs a favourable result from Wanaka, while also having to beat the runaway league leader Green Island, which conceded just six goals in seven games.

Points carry over from the first round, meaning Green Island’s 21 — a five-point gap over second-placed Mosgiel — puts it in a strong position.

There were no plans at present to have a playoff with the Mainland Premier League winner at the conclusion of the season.

Football South CEO Chris Wright said that would be a potential option if the calendar allowed.

However, there was little time between the regional leagues finishing and the national premiership starting, which would make it difficult from a Mainland perspective.

Wright had been impressed with the standard of the league, particularly over the past month.

He said there was some rust evident in the early rounds as teams came into the competition with a shorter pre-season.

However, the most pleasing thing was to see the game back in action following the lockdown period.

"It’s just great to see everyone paying football again, that’s the main thing.

"Right through from the grassroots to the pinnacle leagues, it’s been great to watch

"The clubs have done an amazing job spinning it back up again after not having a lot of notice.

"The overwhelming feeling is just relief it’s back up again."

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