Falcons' unbeaten run threatened

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 12:00 25/01/2014
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Two records of significance go on the line as the Falcons return to the ground where it all began.

The New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Marlborough Falcons host Team Wellington in a top-of-the-table national youth league clash from 2pm, at Trafalgar Park tomorrow.

The only two sides in the southern conference to win both their opening games this season, the Falcons and Wellington are tied on six points. Wellington had a 4-0 win over Heartland Wairarapa and a 1-0 win over YoungHeart Manawatu.

The Falcons started their second season with a 2-0 win over last season's finalists Southern United in Dunedin. Last week, they backed up with a 3-2 win over competition newcomers Wairarapa in Blenheim.

The match at Lansdowne Park was the Falcon's first home game in Marlborough, the win continuing a proud record for the side: the Falcons have never been defeated at home.

This week the Falcon's return to Trafalgar Park, where they were not bowed in four games during their inaugural season last year. An in-form Wellington represents a huge challenge to that record, but coach Davor Tavich said his side will not yield it without a fight.

"We have no fear of Wellington," said Tavich. "We are going to go for the win and that is the only thing that will satisfy us, the three points.

"They are obviously a great team and were a quality team last year, but we are going for three points on Sunday, especially playing at home where we hope to have quite a few people coming down to watch us."

Even with two wins under the belt, Tavich said there is plenty of room for improvement. He has been consistent in saying that he knows the side can play better despite picking up maximum points.

Looking for some improvements, Tavich has shuffled the squad but will likely continue to use his bench early and to good effect. Taine Swete will sit out the match after receiving a red card last week while Furkan Kokcu is unavailable this week after returning to Wellington's Ole Academy. The changes mean starting debuts for two of the squad's youngest and most promising players.

Fullback Sam Wilson and striker Jamie Creswell, both 15, have been given a vote of confidence from Tavich, who believes they have the temperament and talent to mix it with the country's top under-20 players.

"As some of the younger players in our squad they are not phased by the occasion," said Tavich. "We thought they deserved to start the game because they bring different skills and they play their natural game."

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Creswell, who plays club football for Richmond in the Nelson men's first division, will play up front, just ahead of fellow striker Daniel Grimshaw. Tavich said Creswell earned his start after playing well off the bench in Dunedin.

"When he came on he worked really hard and he is very strong for such a young footballer so he gives us that option up front. With his movement, he is really sharp and fast off the mark, so we are hoping he can cause some trouble in behind the Wellington back four."

Wilson, who played for the FC Nelson Colts in the first division during the regular season, will start the game at left back and Tavich has given him licence to go forward with intent.

"Sam has come on in the two games and every time he improved the team's performance on the left hand side. This Sunday, the game plan is for him to attack as much as possible down the left and he is keen to do it. We are looking for him to break down the line and put some quality ball in the box for us."

The Falcons and Team Wellington have strong links. In the 2013 preseason, the Falcons played Team Wellington at Wellington College. The Falcons attacked from the outset and came away with a 2-0 win. The attacking intent hasn't changed and the Falcons will want to make sure the result doesn't either.

FALCONS LINEUP

Coey Turipa (captain), Josh Moffat, Josh Sansom, Harry Tod-Smith, Sam Wilson, Carl Connor-McClean, Fox Slotemaker, Ryan Stewart, Omar Guardiola, Jamie Creswell, Dan Grimshaw. Substitutes: Zac Muir, Izaac Cunningham, Josh Lis, Bertie Fish, Matt Tod-Smith. Head coach: Davor Tavich. Assistant coach: Mark Johnston. Team manager: Fiona Wilson. Physio: Dawn Chalmers.

- The Nelson Mail

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