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Red card robs valiant Falcons of away win

JONATHAN MCKEOWN IN CHRISTCHURCH
Last updated 11:16 11/02/2013

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A 10-man Nelson Falcons side were unable to hold an early lead as Canterbury United scored two second half goals for a 2-1 victory at ASB Football Park in Christchurch yesterday.

The Falcons got off to the best possible start when a well struck Sam Maxwell corner swung in off his left foot. The goal delighted the Falcons fans, who outnumbered their Cantabrian counterparts; however, the promise of a fair and entertaining fixture was harpooned when referee Hayden McCabe produced a red card in the 10th minute.

The ASB Youth League official appeared to be flustered in the broiling conditions following a confrontation with a number United players over the removal of strapping. He then chose a clumsy challenge by Nelson's Hal Fish to stamp his authority on the game.

Fish went into a mid-field tackle with his sprigs up, and while the dangerous-looking but ultimately innocuous challenge deserved a yellow card, the lack of contact made a red unwarranted.

From there a valiant Nelson side did their best to hold out the defending champions, which they did for the first half. Moreover, they continued to cut Canterbury open on the break and could have nabbed a second had the rub of the rubber-based artificial turf gone their way.

Omar Guardiola was a terrier on the right flank, going for everything, and the control of Furkan Kokcu was the perfect foil in behind, but with no-one in the central position, balls into the box were lacking.

Tore Waechter had the best opportunity to claim Nelson's second, but a heavy first touch and a slip at the top of the box, saw a one-on-one shot with the keeper go begging.

As the game wore on Canterbury climbed into their work, yet turning their mountain of possession into chances proved a tough task.

Falcons' Mark Johnston, who had been incensed with the sending-off, played like he was the 11th-man. The Falcons captain asked the same of his players, to work harder and cover extra-ground.

Man-of-the-match, defender Niall Young embraced the torrid time in defence, putting himself about the park with a tenacity that only just outmatched his teammates. And, if it wasn't for a fortuitous goal 10 minutes into the second half, their efforts would not have gone unrewarded.

Canterbury's centre-half Tristan Nicol sent a long ball into the box, and as it caught the stiff north-easterly breeze, the cross-cum- shot caught Turipa off his line and went in over his outstretched hands.

If Canterbury's equaliser was a pot-shot, their winner had all the class of a marksman's best. Following great build-up play down the right involving a sharp one-two with the pacey Aaron Spain the ball was centred for Jamie Draper, who touched to his right to evade a diving defender and sent the strike to the right of Turipa.

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Canterbury United coach Danny Halligan recognised Nelson's effort.

"Nelson got off to a great start, but the game completely changes when you lose a man, it loses its shape," said Halligan.

Falcons' head coach Davor Tavich, said he would have liked to see what his unit could have achieved with a full complement after leading early.

"It's disappointing to go down a man so early and after a goal, but it's all part of the game, there is nothing you can do - the decision was made," said Tavich. "We just had to keep on fighting, from there it is all psychological"

"We got broken down by an unfortunate goal really, if it wasn't for that we could have carried on for a wee bit longer or even all the way."

The loss to Canterbury United and Otago's win over Manawatu sees the Falcons drop to fourth place behind the weekend's victors, and Team Wellington who have a game in hand after the bye.

While the Falcons are not out of the running, a first-season grand final appearance will now rely on a raft of favourable results, although Tavich said the Falcons would not fade in the back-end of the season.

- The Marlborough Express

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