Suburbs psych up for Saturday's Coastal battle
It was a good first-up win for Nelson Suburbs, but the coaches and local pundits will know more of what the 2013 squad is made of after a long weekend that will see two home games played against some rigid opposition.
AMI Nelson Suburbs will play their first Mainland Premier League game on Saxton Field this Saturday against Coastal Spirit at 1pm. That is followed by an Easter Monday match against two-time defending champions Ferrymead Bays at the same venue, with kick-off at 12.45.
In a positive start to the season, Suburbs will likely play an unchanged starting XI against Coastal as imports Ryan Stewart and Alberto Allende Zabala look set to overcome minor injuries. They also welcome back Wesley Olea into the squad.
Stewart or "Skippy" as he is known to his team-mates will line up against the team he transferred from in the off-season. Along with Stewart, Coastal have lost a number of players from a side that proved a tidy handful and finished fourth last season.
Last season's golden boot winner Gareth Turnbull is out injured, but Coastal still have quality on their books, including former Nelson College player and Solomon Islands international Michael Fifii.
Early last season, Coastal came to town and went straight on the attack, with a 4-2 victory.
Suburbs got a 1-0 win in the return fixture and the final match was a draw, so what shapes is an evenly-matched encounter.
"It is always going to be close," said Nelson Suburbs co-coach Ben Wright.
"They used to like to sit off us, wait for mistakes and hit us on the counter. They like to play football, so it should be a good, entertaining game."
In their opening-round fixture on Saturday, Coastal were upstaged by a gritty Western side. A penalty late in the game was the only scoring action in the 1-0 win.
Suburbs' second opponents, Ferrymead Bays, had no trouble finding the net in their opening match, taking a 3-0 win over the newly-promoted Nomads.
A player familiar with the back of the net at Saxton Field, former Suburbs forward Michael White got on the score sheet along with the classy Russell Kamo and Sam Ford, who scored on debut.
The Suburbs faithful might be pained to remember the season-ending fixture from 2012, when Bays came to town with an unassailable MPL lead and promptly put the boot into Suburbs. The 4-0 victory and changing room celebrations have probably altered Nelson punters' perception of the Queen classic We Are The Champions for a good while.
While Suburbs managed a draw but did not pick up a win against Bays last year, a new season and a new set of players means you do not pay the piper until the ditty is done, and Suburbs will have every opportunity to write their own tune in 2013.
"You have to be aware of the strengths and the weaknesses of the opposition, but we like to focus on what we can do.
"The boys trained really well tonight, good tempo, good intensity," Wright said.
"We will obviously try to get good recovery in between the two games.
"It is a home game, which is nice, the preparation has been good and we can look forward to it now.
"Obviously it will be a big test for us and this weekend we will find out, and I think some of these boys will find out this weekend what Mainland football is about."
- The Nelson Mail