Suburbs to keep fighting despite draw
Nelson Suburbs couldn't afford to share the points, but they were unable to avoid it as a 10-man Ferrymead Bays earned a 1-1 draw at Saxton Field yesterday.
Jerry Donga put AMI Nelson Suburbs ahead in the second half after Ferrymead had a man sent off, but central defender Ciaran Aherne equalised not long after. Then, when Suburbs earned their second red card in as many weeks, Bays almost snatched the win, hitting the crossbar in the last play.
The real winners were Cashmere Technical, who will be laughing as their two closest rivals earned a solitary point each, handing them a three-point lead in the Mainland Premier League with four games remaining.
The message from Nelson Suburbs co-coach Paul Brydon was that Suburbs will not give up fighting for the title. Yet, with Tech's superior goal difference (37 compared with Suburbs' 19), Nelson will have to beat Tech next week, win all their remaining games, and rely on another side taking points off the MPL's form side.
The home side started well as Donga and Gagame Feni both created chances through their pace and went close with their finishes, but the important early goal never came.
Mark Johnston had another opportunity 10 minutes in when Sean Parkes laid off a corner for Donga who sent the ball across the goal, but Johnston's header went wide.
Ferrymead's back four were disciplined, holding a straight line and working the offside trap well, led by the impressive Aherne. Up front, the two-time defending champions had their chances, with striker James O'Sullivan freeing Shane Gibbons to test keeper Coey Turipa early.
Suburbs had a semblance of control in the midfield, sitting higher and enjoying more possession, but Suburbs just couldn't get the breakthrough. Ryan Stewart's well-hit corner almost curled in on the wind, but Bays towering keeper Adam Highfield palmed it over the bar.
Beautiful interplay, then forced a foul to prevent a gilt-edged chance. Donga played to Ayers, who sent it on for Donga with a sublime back heel. Donga was in on goal, but the last defender, Michael Forshaw, tripped him on the edge of the box and referee Isaac Trevis went straight for the red.
Early in the second spell Davi Maciel missed in front of goal, getting a touch on a pinpoint Stewart cross but sending it over the bar.
Maciel came back well with a couple of nice through balls. One was played for Donga in the box but a back-peddling Highfield made a strong one-on-one save.
Feni then received a Maciel pass on the left edge then left his marker for dead, going round him on the outside, crossing from the byline for Donga who bounced it off the body before he buried it the net in the 64th minute.
A man and a goal up, Suburbs decided to go to sleep in defence.
Aherne ran from his position in defence, shouting for the cross from halfway and still wasn't picked up. The switch-cross from James O'Sullivan was worthy of the control and finish as Aherne brought it down to slide it into the far left corner, past Turipa.
The goal spurred Ferrymead on, their defenders picking out passes and pushing forward when the opportunity came.
With both sides pouring forward to get the winner, shots were cleared off the line at either end before Pete Whyte was given a red after getting in a tangle with the striker when chasing down a long ball.
Soon after Chris Murphy's final effort hit the crossbar, the whistle went and, in Christchurch, Cashmere Technical put one hand on the trophy.
"There will be twists and turns [in the title race] again, maybe," said Mick Braithwaite, coach of Ferrymead Bays.
"We still have to play Cashmere, so do Nelson, but it will be a big ask because neither side could afford a draw today."
Brydon was more upbeat.
"I never give up son, never give up. We have to beat [Cashmere] next week, then anything can happen.
"It was disappointing today, we should have put them away early-on, and we could have been two or three up. Sometimes it is not easy playing against 10 men, because they all sit back but to their credit, they worked hard.
"We obviously have to win next week, but hopefully Ben [Wright] will be back and BK [Brandon Kay]. I don't think it's over."
Points update: Cashmere Technical 39, Nelson Suburbs 36, Ferrymead Bays 34, Western 32, Coastal Spirit 21, Halswell United 19, Nomads United 12, FC Twenty 11 2.
The Nelson Mail