Sport: Falcons unbowed after first defeat
The Nelson Falcons may have suffered their first loss of the ASB Youth League, but what was strikingly obvious on a stunning Wellington afternoon is, "without a doubt", Nelson have the best supporters in the league.
The New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Falcons were beaten 2-0 by Team Wellington in their first away fixture of the national youth league. A goal in each half to a much faster Wellington side knocked Nelson from the top of the league table.
About 50 people turned out to watch the match at David Farrington Park in Miramar, with a decent contingent supporting the Falcons. With crowds of between 500 and almost 1000 at Trafalgar Park this season, head coach Davor Tavich said there was no comparison.
A downsize in spectacle combined with an 8-0 drubbing of Manawatu last match, saw Nelson short of a step compared to their Wellington rivals, and the home side took full advantage to claim the three points.
Had Omar Guardiola's decent shout for a penalty in the sixth minute been awarded, the game could have progressed differently. As it was, the abrupt end to a familiar attacking run was not ruled a foul and a matter of minutes later, Wellington had their opening goal.
The home side attacked well, with plenty of options for the man in possession. On the 15-minute mark a quality strike was denied by a save of similar class by Coey Turipa, only for the rebound to fall at the feet of Taban Makoii coming through to score.
Some attractive football was played in the first half, with a technically adept Wellington side playing the ball on the deck and Nelson defending well, and looking likely on the counter-attack. The second half became a slightly scrappier affair, though Wellington were lucky to maintain their clean sheet.
Just after halftime, Sam Maxwell had a decent chance to get the Falcons back level, though the snap-shot from inside the box climbed over the crossbar.
Wellington were controlling possession a lot better than the Falcons, and after a number of well-blocked shots the ball fell for Wellington's Van Elia who finished from 10 metres on the angle, again from a rebound in the 55th minute.
It was testament to the strength of the Falcons' defence that a team like Wellington, who put four past Canterbury in their last outing, were limited to two goals off the bounce.
In his first starting game, Harry Tod-Smith was awarded man-of-the-match honours, while his centreback partner Mark Johnston and Turipa continued their fine seasons.
At the other end Maxwell's chance and a couple from striker Tore Waechter could have gone in on another day, but it seems the quota was used up last week, and Nelson were held scoreless for the first time. Tavich and his counterpart, Team Wellington's Stu Pyne, said the game was much tighter than the 2-0 scoreline revealed.
"I thought the first half was very equal, we expected Nelson to be very organised, and they were," said Pyne.
"Nelson defended really, really well and throughout the game. I thought they were unlucky to not hit us on the counter a couple of times, and may have deserved a goal out of the game, I reckon."
Tavich agreed in terms of the chances Nelson had, though he said Wellington were the better team. "They played better football and they deserved to win," said Tavich.
"In their general movement and movement off the ball they were very quick. They moved the ball a lot faster than us; they always seemed to have too much time on the ball."
The Nelson Falcons head coach believed the team would learn from this and be ready for the return leg in Nelson.
There, the Wellington side would experience more of the same support Nelson received yesterday, but on a larger scale, he said. "We had a few people there supporting us, and we had a group there dressed as Smurfs, with the white hats and blue paint. That was pretty cool to see," said Tavich.
"I don't think anybody in this league or even the national [ASB Premiership] league, can match the support that Nelson will get at home. It is by far the best numbers, and we have the best supporters without a doubt.
"The boys are going to need a bit of a lift for the Otago game, and we are hoping for the good support again."
The Nelson Falcons return to Trafalgar Park this weekend to play Otago United. The game kicks off at 1.30pm.