Top Pirate is wary of Nelson opponents
Marlborough's top players will square off against their Nelson opponents when the Top of the South [ToS] competition kicks off in Blenheim and Nelson tomorrow.
Central Pirates take on Nelson Suburbs First XI at Blenheim's A and P Park while a Marlborough Development XI travels to Jubilee Park to take on Richmond FC.
The other match is the all-Nelson clash between Nelson College and FC Nelson Sprig and Fern.
Central Pirates coach Paul Finnegan, while buoyed by his side's 9-0 win over Titans in the Marlborough competition last Saturday, is predicting a tough challenge.
"We concentrated on fitness work this week. I expect a much higher tempo game than we are used to," he said.
Pirates finished mid-table in the Top of the South competition last season but their coach expects a better effort this time around.
"I'd like to win it," Finnegan said.
"We've got the squad to win it. It's a much stronger squad this year and we've played a couple of the Nelson sides and were more than competitive.
"We have strength where we need it."
Pirates met two of their ToS rivals in the Chatham Cup earlier this season - they beat FC Nelson in round one but lost to Nelson College in the following round - but haven't met Suburbs.
"They are a bit of an unknown quantity," Finnegan admitted. "You just don't know who they're going to turn up with."
The Pirates coach has a full squad to choose from with only experienced striker Gregg Slatter under an injury cloud.
If Slatter plays it will be his last game before heading abroad although he is expected back for some end-of-season matches.
A welcome boost for Pirates is striker Khalid Suleiman's return from a two-week suspension, adding to their attacking options.
Wolfie Waechter takes charge of a Development XI which is considerably different from that which won the title last season.
Waechter expects a higher standard of play this year.
"It will be very different to last season," he said.
"There will be no weak teams this time.
"We are basically a college team this year whereas last season we had experienced campaigners to provide structure and solidarity.
"The younger players will just have to step up. Sometimes it's good to throw them in the cold water."
To cover losses from his squad, he has called on players from other clubs such as Robbie Columbus, Dylan Tempero and Cedric Senkel [Rangers Saints] and Phil Dight from Renwick.
While Waechter wants success, he just wants his players to play good football and hopefully catch the eye of the Nelson Falcons selectors along the way.
The Development side will get Falcons striker Omar Guardiola back from suspension this weekend.
The Nelson contenders for the ToS title look evenly-matched if the points table from their division one competition was anything to go by.
As of last weekend, FC Nelson and Richmond were tied on top with 26 points, Nelson College was a point behind, and Suburbs two points adrift of them.
Tomorrow's match between Nelson College and FC Nelson will double as a Nelson division one title decider and ToS clash round one clash.
Top of the South squads:
Central Pirates: Gregg Slatter, Michael Jay, Trent Burbidge, Shane Evans, Richard Vercoe, Alan Kelly, Khalid Suleiman, Matt Goldsworthy, Brendan Lang, Ben Blackman, Aaron Hayes, Aaron Vercoe, Martyn Ryder, Sam Patterson, Regan Chambers, Robbie Cowlishaw (when available).
Marlborough Development XI: Taine Swete (c), Michael Ruffell, Sean Nicholson, Ollie Baker, Lukas Simpson, Carl Connor-McClean, Matthew Neal, Tom Rawcliffe, Roberto dos Santos, Sverre Waechter, Nick Kelly, Omar Guardiola, Robbie Columbus, Dylan Tempero, Cedric Senkel, Phil Dight, Dave Turner. The third round of senior football will also begin tomorrow.
Marlborough's 14 senior sides have been split into three divisions for the rest of the season.
Central, Biddy Kates Rangers, Blenheim Valley Masters, Rangers Saints and BV Titans are in division one.
BV Cobras, Pumprite Trojans, Rangers Masters, Clubs of Marlborough Rangers and Renwick Rogues are in division two while Picton Seniors, Trojans Masters, Picton Development and Rangers United are in division three.
- The Marlborough Express