Falcons head south with confidence
The Nelson Falcons' bye round produced the result Falcons' fans were after, as Nelson head to Christchurch for the start of the final round with the fate of their first-year challenge still firmly at their feet.
Otago United's 1-0 victory over Team Wellington in Dunedin on Waitangi Day sees Nelson trail the capital side by two points. Wellington is the only side in the ASB Youth League's southern conference yet to visit Trafalgar Park, where the Falcons have not been bettered.
However, for the Falcons side this correlates to three away games before the top-ranked teams in each conference meet in the grand final. The first match of the second round is at 3pm tomorrow against Canterbury United at ASB Football Park.
Canterbury, the defending champions, became the New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Falcons' first opponents in mid-January. They gave the home side a real hurry-up, scoring two first-half goals before a frantic fight back earned Nelson a draw thanks to an Omar Guardiola stunner and a referee's time header from Harry Tod-Smith.
Lessons were learned about what it takes to compete in national competition, and the following week the Falcons thrashed Manawatu 8-0. Moreover, the insights into what Canterbury will offer this weekend have been in discussion at training this week. Specifically they way Canterbury faltered under attacking pressure.
"They [Canterbury] will come out really hard and try everything to get the points," said head coach Davor Tavich. "It will be another tough game . . . but there is no fear.
"Being the first game of the season, we didn't know what to expect, so the boys were quite nervous. But now we know we deserve to be in this league, the confidence is there and we will look to attack a lot more."
In Canterbury, the Falcons face a tough opponent on their home turf. Canterbury currently sits in third with the same record and points as the Falcons, but with an inferior goal difference. The artificial pitch at ASB Football Park provides its own unique challenges as the bounce takes time to master.
For Nelson, four wins would mean a place in the final and five a first-year title, but the Falcons' minds are a world away from those fancies this week.
"We are just going to concentrate on one game at a time. But it is a must-win game if you want to stay in touch with the leaders. We know we can match Canterbury in any part of the game.
" [The competition] is wide open now with Wellington dropping the points and if we keep playing with the commitment and the passion and keep improving, anything is possible."
There is one change from the Falcons starting side that beat Otago United 1-0 last Sunday. Nat Payne drops out altogether, replaced on the right wing by Furakn Kokcu who returns after a one-match suspension.
Of concern is an injury to creative midfielder Tore Waechter, who has an ankle injury and was due to be assessed last night.
Coey Turipa, Niall Young, Mark Johnston (c), Harry Tod-Smith, Taylor Hall-Jones, Taine Swete, Hal Fish, Tore Waechter, Sam Maxwell, Omar Guardiola, Furakn Kokcu: Bench: Lian Cinzah, Jamane Wilson-Duggan, Ashley Langbein, Fletcher Slierendrecht
The Nelson Mail