Falcons in good shape for league

Confidence remains high in the Nelson Falcons camp following their preseason tournament in Palmerston North at the weekend.

Head coach Davor Tavich said he had no doubt his young charges will hold their own when the national ASB Youth League begins in less than four weeks.

On their five-match road trip, which included a 2-0 win over Team Wellington on Friday night, the Falcons earned a 2-1 winning record against the opposition they will meet in the southern conference.

Despite recording one win and three losses during the subsequent two-day tournament, which involved northern conference team Hawke's Bay at Skoglund Park, the Nelson Falcons never looked out of their depth.

The Falcons scored in every game, and the close losses could have gone either way.

The highs of Friday night's victory were cut down on Saturday morning when it became clear Mainland League level goalkeeper Coey Turipa would not be available due to injury. Captain and central defender Mark Johnston helped in to fill the gap, but his presence was missed in the defensive line.

Manawatu claimed a 2-1 win in the first game of the tournament, though it was far from convincing. Nelson created a similar number of chances, but Sam Maxwell's volleyed strike from a partial clearance was the only time Nelson found the back of the net.

The competitive encounter was mirrored in the day's second match against Hawke's Bay, where a bona fide goalkeeper could have made the difference in a 3-2 loss. Nelson showed their positive intent on the ball with goals to Omar Guardiola and Tore Waechter.

Yesterday saw Turipa back in goal, but Hawke's Bay still edged the Falcons 2-1. Waechter scored his second goal after the ball was worked through the midfield, and a sliding pass met his his run in behind the centre backs.

Waechter then beat the cover before taking the ball around the keeper, the midfielder finishing from an acute angle.

Comfortable with the level of play required, the Nelson Falcons finished their tournament with a dominant display, beating Manawatu 2-1. Furkan Kokcu scored a screamer from 25 metres out after running on to a clearance, the ball curling into the top left corner.

Waechter scored his third of the tournament and the Falcons' second from a penalty, when he broke into the box and was bought down.

The Falcons had started with a win in the capital, and ended their first tour as a team with a 2-1 win over YoungHeart Manawatu on their own patch.

Tavich said that overall the preseason tournament was a positive experience, having four major functions for the new franchise.

It had confirmed the level of play they will see in the national league and highlighted areas where the Falcons will need to sharpen their game. Tavich said the Falcons needed to play with intensity from the start, and not button off after scoring, as they found themselves "playing from 1-0 down" and conceding after scoring.

With those areas for improvement noted, Tavich believed the tournament had also shown the Falcons are capable of success in the league.

"We will be competitive in this competition, there is no doubt about that," said Tavich.

"The games we lost were fairly open to either teams, but the second game we won, we completely dominated."

He said being away with the group of 18 players, another litmus test had been how the side would carry themselves and relate to each other, one they passed with flying colours. The atmosphere within the team was described as "completely positive".

Tavich was also able to confirm that he and his assistant coaches, Peter Simonsen and Andy Morris, had settled on a starting XI.

The first match day team will not be named until the Thursday prior to the opening match against Canterbury United on Sunday, January 13.

With only five or so trainings scheduled before then, a chance remains to press for a place in the starting lineup for the Trafalgar Park fixture.

The Nelson Mail