Down to wire for last Top of South spot

It may just be one goal, but it gives Blenheim Valley Masters an important upper hand when they face Rangers Saints at A&P Park tomorrow to decide the fourth and final side that will play in the upcoming Top of the South League.

The top four division one sides at the end of the first two rounds qualify to take on the best four teams from the Nelson division two competition, and Rangers Pirates, Blenheim Valley Development and Central are already guaranteed their place.

Masters and Saints are locked in a close battle for the fourth spot and with the two teams unable to be separated on points and goal differential, the fact Masters have scored just one more goal gives them the advantage ahead of the 3pm clash on the No2 pitch. It means a draw would be enough for them to secure fourth spot, while Saints are in a must-win situation.

The Masters lineup is largely unchanged, but the return of big centre back Mike Whitty and experienced utility player Brad Packham is a handy boost.

The news is not so good for Saints, with skipper Mark Speedy, Josh Thwaites, Ian Lusty and keeper Billy Rayner all unavailable. Manager Warwick Tempero said he was still exploring options to fill the gaps, and expected they would only have the bare 11.

The other two final round two clashes are also played at 3pm, with round leaders Rangers Pirates up against Trojans on the No3 ground and Blenheim Valley Development taking on Central on No1.

Unbeaten in their last five matches, Pirates broke Development's nine-game winning streak last Saturday and go in as strong favourites against Trojans. Last-placed Trojans came within a whisker of collecting their first point of the season against Rangers Saints last week and although they have influential centre back Simon Thompson returning, nothing short of a huge upset should prevent Pirates coming out on top.

Development were 4-0 victors over Central in round one, but it took the BV youngsters over an hour to break a resilient Blues outfit in that contest and one gets the feeling things may be a lot closer this time around.

Assistant coach of development Wolfie Waechter expected his side to remain virtually unchanged and said they would be out to make amends for their first loss against Pirates last weekend.

The Marlborough Express