Falcons prevail on rain-soaked pitch

PUDDLE JUMPERS: Josh Sansom challenges for possession in testing conditions at Trafalgar Park.
PUDDLE JUMPERS: Josh Sansom challenges for possession in testing conditions at Trafalgar Park.

The Falcons lead the southern conference of the ASB Youth Football League after winning an entertaining but lottery-like match in monsoon conditions at Trafalgar Park yesterday.

The New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Marlborough Falcons beat Team Wellington 4-3 to continue their perfect start in 2014 and remain unbeaten at home across two seasons.

The first half was an arm-wrestle with Wellington leading 1-0 at the break. Six goals were scored in the second half as the home side rode their luck, but the never-give-up attitude of the home side saw Sam Wilson poke home the match-winner in injury time.

Earlier, two penalties to Ryan Stewart and a stunning speculator from Josh Moffat got the Falcons on the scorecard. Wellington's three goals came from three outstanding strikes from over-age player, former Richmond Athletic import Sam Mason-Smith.

The wider squad were sweeping water off the pitch before the start of play, but the deluge continued throughout. The ball held up in the puddles, making going forward on the deck difficult, yet by contrast the bouncing ball skidded like a dam-buster.

Control and continuity were difficult for both sides. While possession and territory were just about even, Mason-Smith was the clear difference between the sides.

For the Falcons, overage player, captain and goal keeper Coey Turipa played a critical role in the result and was very good when he remained inside his area.

The game finally opened up after half an hour. Wellington ended up with the first shot on goal, Turipa saving well before the offside flag was raised. The Falcons had chances from the boot of Sam Wilson and the second of two good corners found the head of Jamie Creswell but was well saved.

On the break after the save, Wellington's Clayton Lewis lifted the shot over an empty net and soon after Wellington had the ball in the net, an offside flag stopping the celebrations.

In the 36th minute the first goal of the match came as Mason-Smith paced through the last defenders on a break. The striker went around Turipa and finished on an acute angle.

Turipa was forced into another one-on-one with a through ball and the speed of the Wellington forwards catching out the defence. Turipa had the measure of the attacker on this occasion, getting down for a fine save.

The Falcons bombed a gilt-edged chance to level just before the break when Omar Guardiola had the ball around the goalkeeper but was slow to pull the trigger, possibly perplexed by the wet ground. Guardiola's hesitation allowed the arriving defender to clear the shot off the line.

Daniel Grimshaw's shot off the rebound hit the post and from the resulting corner, Wellington were forced to clear the ball off the line to maintain their 1-0 halftime lead.

The six-goal scoring spree started in the 65th minute after Wellington keeper Charlie Morris took on Falcons replacement forward Josh Lis in a race to the ball on the edge of the box. Lis had the legs and referee Grant Peattie adjudged that the diving keeper's outstretched arms had tripped Lis.

In torrential rain Ryan Stewart stepped up, put his head down and sent the keeper the wrong way for the Falcons to level the scores.

The Falcons then took the lead, 10 minutes later. Fullback Josh Moffat curled in a speculator from outside the right hand side of the box. The keeper always looked like he had the ball covered but, as it came down, he was tracking backwards from the near corner and the ball bounced in off the near post.

At the other end, Turipa palmed away a series of well-placed corners before Mason-Smith climbed high to score his second from a powerful header, with Turipa not even getting off the ground.

Falcons' vice-captain Harry Tod-Smith was given a yellow card after protesting to the referee about Turipa being taken out, but the goal made it 2-all.

Direct from the restart the Falcons went ahead again as Guardiola sped into the box on the back of a defensive error. A push in the back from a defender earned Stewart his second spot kick and "Skippy" made no mistake.

Soon after Mason-Smith had his hat-trick burying a two-on-one opportunity after Wellington worked their way in behind the defence and as time wore on, then ticked over the 90-minute mark, a draw looked on.

But the Falcons had one more moment of magic in them. Guardiola sparked a final flurry with his shot hitting the post, before Grimshaw had a crack but his saved effort fell at the feet of Wilson, who capped off a superb starting debut with the winner.

Wellington head coach Stu Pyne simply said he was happy with the way his team played in foul conditions, but that he would "look forward" to hosting the Falcons in the return match next month.

The Nelson Mail