Suburbs rally at end for win

Urgency and enterprise were rewarded at Saxton Field yesterday as two goals in the final five minutes gave Nelson Suburbs a crucial 3-2 Mainland Premier League victory over FC Twenty 11.

AMI Nelson Suburbs went a goal down on two occasions but displayed a single-minded purpose in the final 15 minutes, producing concerted attacking pressure that ended with Ben Wright's injury-time winner.

Suburbs' third consecutive victory has them sitting in outright second. They leapfrogged Cashmere Technical after their 1-all draw with Halswell United, and are now only two points behind Ferrymead Bays after Nomads United upset the leaders 1-0.

As three minutes were signalled for extra time, Wright missed a straightforward header off a cross from captain Mark Johnston, who was by then motivating the team from midfield. But when the best chance had seemed spent, Johnston produced another fine ball into the airspace around Wright.

"I wasn't going to miss the second one," Wright said. "It wasn't an easy finish, the second one - it was just nice to see it go in."

With the FC players' devastation obvious as defenders threw themselves to the ground, their coach, Tsetso Ivanov, looked once shy after being twice bitten.

"This happened for the second year in a row [against Nelson Suburbs], when we are a goal up with five minutes to go and lost the game," Ivanov said. "But from the way the game went, I don't think we have been embarrassed."

Wright was impressed with the opposition's organisation but was more relieved by his side's ability to come back and win.

"When you come from 2-1 down, it takes a lot of courage," said the player and co-coach. "In the work rate and the spirit, we stuck together and [the win] came."

Sitting last with only two points, FC Twenty 11 offered as much as any other side has on Saxton Field this year, a testament to the strength of the competition. Then again, the score probably should have been 5-2.

The Nelson coaches will be concerned. Despite having the bulk of possession, Suburbs again seemed to go missing for periods. It was a vast improvement on last week's scrap, but inaccuracies and missed opportunities crept into their play again.

FC Twenty 11 opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Abdul Khalifa beat three defenders to a long ball into the box, and with two tumbling touches the ball found the back of the net.

The ineffective defensive effort was probably the only time Suburbs were exposed at the back, a trend that continues to bode well as the competition wears on.

Brandon Kay, generally an accomplished finisher, has not had the best couple of weeks on heavy pitches. He should have buried a shot that went over the bar after Sam Ayers and Ryan Stewart combined to give him an opportunity in front of goal.

The equaliser came from a Sean Parkes corner in the 22nd minute. Swinging it in from the right-hand side, the keeper's call went up, but Johnston got up high and well in front to head home the goal.

Johnston wasn't as well directed when he missed a penalty Stewart had earned 10 minutes later.

In the second half, Davi Maciel and Stewart continued to provide the attacking flair with the ball at their feet. Some sublime passing between the two set up a shot for Kay, which held its angle past the post.

At this point Suburbs started to give possession away with too much ease.

While the defence was never really stretched, there was no need when Brandon Wither produced a clean strike from a free kick on the edge of the box to regain the lead for FC.

An injection of enterprise was needed, and changes from co-coach Paul Brydon roused Suburbs into action. First, Wright came on to provide the calm class up front, before Sam Maxwell sparked from the back as Suburbs went to a 3-5-2 formation in search of goals.

The second well-directed ball in from Maxwell was met by Stewart at the far post. Wright's run into the centre drew the keeper in, and Stewart made no mistake as Suburbs equalised again, before the leaders combined to snatch the win.

It may have been another victory from a patchy performance, but Suburbs showed that purple patches can produce game-breaking precision.

Points update: Ferrymead Bays 18, Nelson Suburbs 16, Cashmere Technical 15, Western MPL 13, Halswell United 10, Coastal Spirit 10, Nomads United 7, FC Twenty 11 2.

The Nelson Mail