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Heading for the top

Nelson Suburbs 1
Coastal Spirit 1

Mainland Men’s Premier League
Sunday 23 April 2017
Saxton Field, Stoke

I hadn’t before seen a team look so dejected after going top-of-the table as Coastal Spirit when they traipsed off a warm and sunny Saxton Field.

A poor first half, followed by an improved second half and several missed chances, saw a 1-1 draw. Enough to take the visitors from Christchurch back to the top of the table, after briefly being overtaken by the results of the Saturday games. However, the aim had been to get all 3 points to ensure that they would be top of the table at the end of the first round of robin-based games.

Ferrymead Bays had a game in hand due to be played at Nelson Suburbs on the following Tuesday, Anzac Day. A win for Bays would see them overtake Coastal Spirit and end the first round of league matches at the top of the league. (Update: Suburbs beat Bays 2-0, Coastal Spirit still top).

Coastal Spirit have recruited several futsal players this season. However, the poor first touch and passing range inaccuracies in the first half from Coastal Spirit would have kept some Team Wellington supporters busy (had they been there) in a philosophical discussion on whether futsal is a real sport.

Through balls went out for goal kicks, attempts to control the ball were poor and too many passes didn’t make their mark. Nelson Suburbs took advantage of the poor play. In the 8th minute, Matt Tod-Smith turned on the edge of the penalty area and fired a shot in to give the home side the lead.

Suburbs had youngsters such as Tod-Smith playing for them, but were not lacking experience. Ex-All White Campbell Banks started and co-coach Ben Wright appeared later as a substitute. It’s about time they introduced a Masters League in Nelson.

Omar Guardiola had the next best chance of the first half for Suburbs. From the left, he beat a defender, then tried to curl in a right-footed shot to the top-far-corner, missing narrowly. Coastal had few opportunities, a couple of free-kicks that didn’t cause any trouble and Sam Orritt fired a low shot across goal.

Down a goal at half-time, Coastal Spirit would have reflected that they hadn’t played the way the results suggested they could. It was a revitalised side in the second half, dominating possession and creating chances.

Eight minutes into the second half, Coastal Spirit equalised. Guto beat two players and sent Jordan Ball down the right, his cross was turned wide by a Suburbs defender. From the resulting corner, swung in by Guto, Tristan Nicol scored a captain’s goal with a powerful header from close-range. 1-1.

Two minutes later, Ball stole the match-sphere off another player and was one-on-one with Suburbs goalkeeper Corey Wilson, but the keeper was out quickly to smother the opportunity.

Coastal Spirit ought to have taken the lead one minute later. Ball was again though one-on-one with Wilson. The goalkeeper made another excellent block, but the ball spilled out to Sean Liddicoat. Recently returned from national league duty with Hawke’s Bay United, Liddicoat shot wide with an open goal.

Each side had a chance to go ahead later in the match. Eddie Ashton pulling off a diving save from a Suburbs corner. A header from Evandro was saved in stoppage time to deny Coastal a last-gasp winner.

It was left to the Coastal Spirit supporters to remind the team, as they trudged towards the changing rooms, that they were back on top of the Mainland Premier League.

Categories: Other NZ Federation Leagues

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Phil Clayton

Phil Clayton's feet are registered with Brooklyn Northern United but—despite having moved back to Wellington from Christchurch in 2011—his heart is still bonded with Coastal Spirit FC.

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