Falcons keen to bank more points
The Nelson Falcons return home to face Otago United at Trafalgar Park tomorrow, and with the match marking the round-robin midpoint of the ASB Youth League, results are required if debut season title designs remain.
The condensed competition is merciless. There are eight regular-season games, home and away against the four other southern conference teams. At the end of the 10 rounds, including two byes, the top-placed team on points will play the top northern conference team in the grand final.
Kickoff is at 1.30pm for the Falcons' penultimate home game against Otago, the last chance home fans will have to see the side at Trafalgar Park until the final round in early March.
The New Zealand King Salmon Falcons are currently second, two points adrift of Team Wellington, who lead with a two from two record and have a game in hand.
Wellington's top form, the short schedule, the bye and upcoming road games mean Nelson head coach Davor Tavich is targeting Otago as a must-win match.
"We are going to need a result from this one," said Tavich. "Especially playing at home and losing to Wellington last Sunday. It is a big game for us.
"If you drop a few points and lose one game, you fall behind. So we can't really afford to lose any more points."
Otago were beaten 1-0 by Canterbury United at Forsyth Barr Stadium last weekend. They have one win from two matches, 4-1 over Manawatu in round one, and a game in hand.
The Falcons have four points from three matches, the same as Canterbury, who they drew with 2-all in the opening fixture.
Like Canterbury, Nelson lost to Team Wellington, although Nelson has the best goal difference thanks to an 8-0 win over Manawatu.
With a full house of results - a draw, a win and a loss - Tavich said now was the time for his players to sharpen their talons and chase the ultimate goal.
"They all believe they can win. We can beat any team in this competition.
"We are aware of that, and confident we can do that."
Having never tasted defeat on their home turf, Nelson will go into tomorrow's game with confidence and some familiarity, as the team return to the structure that served them well in the first two games.
"We tried something different up in Wellington - it didn't really work for us," Tavich said.
After a brief stint up front, Tore Waechter returns to the midfield, where he will get much more time with the ball at his feet. Nat Payne comes into the starting lineup on the right wing to free Omar Guardiola. In a central role, the attacking threat can now conserve his energy for going forward.
Taylor Hall-Jones shifts from midfield back into the defensive line, while Fletcher Slierendrecht is on the bench along with Dion Keetley, who will make his match day debut. Furkan Kokcu drops out of the team due to picking up two yellow cards.
The day's entertainment starts at 11.30am with a quality curtainraiser. The teams playing are a Nelson selection and a Richmond AFC selection featuring former Mainland and National League players, including Gary Calderbank, John Slotemaker and Mullett Watkinson. Despite being called a friendly, it is likely that sparks will fly between these senior players.
AT A GLANCE
Nelson Falcons v Otago United Venue: Trafalgar Park Time: Kickoff 1.30pm Entry: Free Curtainraiser: 11:30am Nelson v Richmond senior selection Entertainment: 12.30pm Drill-powered trolley world record attempt NELSON FALCONS Coey Turipa, Niall Young, Mark Johnston (c), Harry Tod-Smith, Taylor Hall-Jones, Taine Swete, Hal Fish, Tore Waechter, Sam Maxwell, Omar Guardiola, Nat Payn; Bench: Lian Cinzah, Jamane Wilson-Duggan, Ashley Langbein, Fletcher Slierendrecht, Dion Keetley.
- The Nelson Mail