Suburbs dealt harsh lesson
Ferrymead Bays travelled to Nelson with the title in tow but there was no complacency in their play as the 2012 Mainland Premier League champions outshone Nelson Suburbs in all areas to finish the season with a 4-0 victory.
Freddy Mercury rang out in the Saxton Field changing sheds following the match, and no-one who witnessed the consummate display on Saturday would begrudge the Bays boys bellowing "we are the champions".
Suburbs controlled the possession in the first half but couldn't create the chances required to build pressure. Long periods on the ball were interceded by creative breaks from Bays' Russell Kamo, leading to genuine chances and many a set piece. Wing Shane Gibbons opened the scoring with a fine strike from the left side of the box following from a run and perfect pass from Kamo after 33 minutes.
It was only 1-0 at halftime but, in the second period, Bays began to dominate entirely. Going forward midfielder Josh Smith found his players on the flanks with ease, leading to a double for Jamie Draper and a final injury-time goal to substitute Chris Moore.
For a match that had nothing riding on the result, it was a particularly fractious fixture, the referee quelling many moments of malice. Much of that was born out of AMI Nelson Suburbs frustration at being given nothing by a suffocating defence and constricting Bays midfield.
Niggling pushes, body checks and veiled jersey pulling too often went unchecked by the match officials. But you don't win championships by playing a neighbourly brand of football and the young Suburbs defence could learn a thing or two from their rivals.
For all their gamesmanship without the ball, Bays looked best going forward and probably should have had more on the board. A fine first half save from Suburbs keeper Coey Turipa stretching high and to his left denied Gibbons early. Turipa also saved a penalty in the second, making up for his own blunder in the box that led to the spot kick.
Suburbs never really threatened in this match. An inability to thread through the last pass, and couple of sprayed shots were the norm. When Suburbs were on target, keeper and genuine field marshal Adam Highfield looked secure. Highfield saved a scuffed shot from Jordan Swaney in the first half and cleaned up a second half shot from Michael White at the near post following Suburbs' best attacking movement.
For Suburbs the effort in this match probably reflected the season. Third in the league was a fair result but they were unable to beat the teams above them, recording no wins over Cashmere Technical or Ferrymead Bays.
The leaders again stood up; Mark Johnson, Ben Wright, Jordan Swaney, Darryn Cunningham and White all worked hard, but too often players went missing around them. The young talent in this side are still finding their feet at this level and fronting against Bays was a big ask when one or two players didn't have their head in the game.
It's a fair reflection that inexperience was a factor in a season where 10 players left the side or became unavailable through injury, travel or pursuing other opportunities. Coach Paul Brydon said the use of close to 30 different players in the sky blue strip didn't help their failed title challenge.
"I spoke to [Ferrymead Bays coach] Mick Braithwaite before the game and he said he has had pretty much the same 11 all season. We are pulling people in from the reserves who really aren't good enough, maybe against other teams but not Ferrymead.
"We really wanted to finish the season on a high but we didn't really fire a shot. They are a very good unit, they have only lost three games in two years.
"I put it down to their solid back four working hard as a unit . . . that is how you mark players, we tend to sit back and let people receive the ball. Well they don't, they're into you, they gave us no room on the ball."
Braithwaite said this was an important game for his side and a record fourth league title wasn't the end of the road this season.
"We have the South Island championships next week . . . so it was important that even though we had won the league, we came here and put the performance in and I thought we dominated the game."
- The Nelson Mail