Suburbs stutter to important 3-2 win

Two late goals saved Suburbs' blushes and kept their hopes of a Mainland Premier League title alive in a untidy 3-2 win over FC Twenty 11 at Saxton Field yesterday.

Despite dominating the visitors from Christchurch through time on the ball and playing most of the game inside the opposition half, AMI Nelson Suburbs struggled to put together coherent play in the final third. The last pass never seemed to connect, but sheer desire for victory got Suburbs home as a goal-mouth scramble and a deflected shot in the final five minutes claimed three vital points.

There was only one clean goal out of five on a heavy pitch as again some glaring defensive errors put Suburbs behind the eight-ball. After absorbing a lot of pressure, FC Twenty 11 got on the board 14 minutes in. An innocuous ball inexplicably went through the gloves of Coey Turipa and FC's Stewart Bola finished from a metre out.

Suburbs hit back 90 seconds later through Michael White, having his busiest game in a while. Alex Ridsdale took the ball down and played a nice touch to White in the centre of the field. White advanced it to the box, took a touch right of the last defender and struck a spotless finish.

Even though Suburbs bossed the game, Twenty 11 did look dangerous on the break in the first half, capitalising on some average defensive play down the flanks through Bola and Evandro Siqueira. Siqueira was gifted his 18th minute goal by a defensive error, picking up a loose ball from Suburbs inside the box and making hard work of an easy finish in front of goal for a 2-1 lead.

Suburbs have had to deal with plenty of disruptions this year, missing a host of quality defenders though injuries and departures. Names like Mike Bothwell, Matt Elliot, Matt Shaw, Erik Panzer and David Molloy would have been welcomed on the Suburbs sheet.

Captain Mark Johnston is filling in admirably at the back and Darryn Cunningham was probably the best on the park for Suburbs. More than once Cunningham cut out the attack as the last defender and cleared at least one certain goal off the line, but their assistance was fairly ordinary yesterday.

After Ben Wright and Denis Ifunaoa combined to have a goal disallowed as the linesman raised his flag for offside, the result looked to be heading Twenty 11's way as it remained 2-1.

Full of frustration, for a dominant team lacking the finishing touches, the second half whittled away until Suburbs decided to do it ugly.

In the 85th minute a Suburbs corner was eventually converted by Wright who gathered the ball with his back to the net and flicked it in after Suburbs won two headers inside the box.

The winner came from substitute Matson Fenny in the final minute. As the wild-looking shot took a deflection and went in, the relief was clear.

Not many put their hands up in a Suburbs' performance that lacked nothing in effort but was bereft of execution. In midfield Jordan Swaney worked tirelessly, and up front Wright brought his usual class but it was the young guns who looked the most composed. Willow Milligan played an excellent 90 minutes and like Ross McPhie, who came on late, they don't die with the ball or give it away softly and their passes hit the target.

Coach Paul Brydon said the dressing room at halftime was a pretty perilous place to be.

"Yeah I went off at halftime. I thought the first half just wasn't acceptable.

"The trouble is when they put five behind the ball they are hard to break down, so we had to go man-for-man at the back and really push on.

"But in the second half we stuck at it. I think we deserved it and we were certainly the better side. Still . . . the execution has to be better and the passing has to be better.

"We will take the three points and work hard again this week. With results going the way they did we still have a chance."

On Saturday, league leaders Ferrymead Bays drew with second-placed Cashmere Technical. Ferrymead have 37 points, Cashmere 34 and Nelson Suburbs sit on 33 with three games to play. Nelson Suburbs play Ferrymead Bays at home on Saxton Field in the last game of the season.

The Nelson Mail