Falcons' first flight a stunning success
On a windy Wellington pitch, the Nelson Falcons attacked from the outset, their first flight marked with a 2-0 win over Team Wellington.
Nelson's national youth league football team played their first match at Wellington College yesterday evening. Creating chances from the kickoff, the Falcons converted two second-half goals to topple Team Wellington, one of the southern conference favourites.
The Falcons played the friendly on their way to a pre-season tournament in Palmerston North, building towards the start of the ASB Youth League in January.
Their inaugural 90 minutes of competitive football was hailed as a "tremendous performance" by assistant coach Andy Morris.
The newly established side took the game to their foundation opponents from the first whistle. Only a couple of quality saves from the Wellington keeper kept the game goalless in the first half.
Five minutes into the second, the Falcons had their first goal. Midfielder Furkan Kokcu played a sharp 1-2 with Daniel Grimshaw on the edge of the box, taking the return inside. Kokcu drew a foul and won a penalty. Omar Guardiola stepped up, sent the keeper the wrong way and sent the ball into the top right-hand corner.
If that sparked celebrations by the players, the coaches could "hardly contain themselves" either, Morris said.
The Falcons were again rewarded for their attacking endeavour 10 minutes later.
Wellington were trying to play the ball out of the back when Guardiola swooped for an intercept, then played through to Grimshaw. The forward ran on to the pass between two Wellington defenders, sliding the ball past the keeper.
Along with the sterling work of Kokcu, Guardiola and Grimshaw, captain and experienced Mainland League player Mark Johnston set the tone from centre back.
The busy, harrying Falcons side played with a confidence and connection that belied their few short weeks together. Morris used all 18 players in the 4-2-3-1 formation, with everyone contributing to, and sharing in, a memorable match.
"We were very positive going forward, very positive on the ball, and our movement off the ball was excellent," said Morris.
"Right from the word go, we created far more chances.
"Our combination play was really good. That resulted in three or four first-half chances that just cleared the crossbar, and a couple where their keeper made outstanding saves to keep them in the game."
Morris said the Falcons were like a blanket across the park, smothering their opposition.
"We were much stronger than them; we competed better for the ball than them.
"We effectively stopped them playing. They spent most of the game worrying about what we were going to do."
Morris said that for a team who simply wanted to acquit themselves well in their first run, the manner of their performance, and the result, was a credit to the spirit of the group.
"They all played for each other. The expectation now is only that we continue with what we have seen today.
"The reality is, we are still building towards the start of the season, so we will just carry on from the platform we have set."
The Falcons were due to play fellow southern conference team YoungHeart Manawatu at Skoglund Park in Palmerston North this afternoon.
This was to be followed by a game against northern conference team Hawke's Bay at the same venue.
Tomorrow, they will play both sides again for a total of five games in a little under 48 hours.
The Nelson Mail