Final countdown for title-chasing Falcons

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 12:00 14/03/2014

UP FOR THE CUP: The New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Marlborough Falcons eye the ASB Youth League Cup held by Michael Norton, Midland Region ASB branch manager.

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The Falcons head into tomorrow's home national youth league final with their top side primed to make history.

The southern conference champions will play two-time national champions Auckland City, the northern conference winners, at Trafalgar Park from with kickoff at 1pm. They hope to become the first team from outside Auckland or Christchurch to win the title.

The New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Marlborough Falcons won eight games in a row this season to claim the southern conference trophy with two games to spare. Despite dropping the final two games of the season, head coach Davor Tavich said the team were ready to push for national honours in their second season.

"The feeling in the squad is very positive and everybody is looking forward to it," said Tavich. "We are going in with a fair bit of confidence. We are confident we can win."

The final two losses, against Manawatu and Canterbury came as Tavich rotated the squad and players were rested and protected ahead of the final.

"I don't think we lost any form," he said. "We had to do a bit of management with the yellow cards and people being away from Nelson. At the same time we had to give the younger boys in the squad a fair chance of making the team for the final."

Tavich has named a strong lineup of players who were major contributors during the eight-game winning streak.

The team will be led by captain and Mainland Premier League goalkeeper of the year, Coey Turipa.

Elsewhere, the Falcons have proven talent across the park and some exciting young players who have the ability to add impact off the bench.

"Everybody is healthy, everybody is ready and everybody is fit," said Tavich. "We have the top team for the game [tomorrow] and we have the right players in the right places to get us the win and get us the championship."

Tavich spent two years in Auckland and was involved with Central United and Auckland City. He said they would be technically very good and look to play attractive, attacking football.

The Falcons also have a fox in the hole with Auckland-based Falcons defender Fox Slotemaker spending the last few weeks up north.

He has attended games involving the northern champions. The information gleaned will be fed back to the coaching staff and players, to help combat any surprises the defending champions may bring south.

Auckland won the title last season after defeating Otago United, a somewhat surprising southern conference winner. The reigning champions are undefeated in 2014. Like the Falcons, they picked up eight wins, but dropped points only in two drawn games.

"I just think we have to be ready for a physical technically minded team that wants to play and wants to score goals. We will be ready for that."

Whatever the result tomorrow, the Falcons' second season can be rated only as an unequivocal success. Tavich agreed that reaching the final was a fantastic achievement for a young team and a fledgling franchise with no senior side playing in the national league.

Yet, the feeling remains that there is more to come from the 2014 Falcons and Tavich said that feeling is almost tangible at trainings. He said the way the team have been carrying themselves was that of a championship winning team.

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"Now that we are here we want to win it. Whatever happens, the team can be proud of what they have achieved. But, I think they want more, we haven't finished yet. We don't like losing, it is just not in the Falcons' culture anymore.

"We don't want to lose it - everyone in the club - not this one. We have come so far we've just got to bring it home really."

The team, coaching and administration staff are hoping for a large and vociferous home crowd.

The Nelson football community will be out in force, but support is coming from all corners with the ITM Championship-winning Makos also throwing their considerable bulk behind the Falcons.

Falcons' fans have enjoyed success and a proud home record over two seasons and Tavich and his team will want nothing more than to make Trafalgar Park the scene of yet another championship win.

"We are playing at home, for us and in our mind we are favourites to win this game," said Tavich. "We are the champions of the South Island and we are playing at home in front of our home crowd and home support, so we are going in to win it."

YOUTH LEAGUE FINAL

Nelson Falcons team for the final: Coey Turipa, Sam Maxwell, Fox Slotemaker, Josh Sansom, Harry Tod-Smith, Taine Swete, Furkan Kokcu, Sam Wilson, Dan Grimshaw, Ryan Stewart, Josh Lis. Reserves: Bertie Fish, David Maisey, Zac Muir, Matt Tod-Smith, Lewis Miccio. Head coach: Davor Tavich. Assistant coach: Mark Johnston: Manager: Fiona Wilson.

Auckland City (full squad): Tim Allen, Scott Jacques, Stewart Mackay, Issac Moffat-Young, Kyle Adams, Roddy Lockhart, Mario Ilic h, Dylan Burns, Regi Murati, Tom Konusi, Nicolas Zambrano, Moses Dyer, Kojo Norku, Stephen Ashby-Peckham, Scott Sellar, Tinashe Marowa, Connor Tracey, Joshua Moody, Harrison Sage, Sam Brotherton, Scott Midgeley, Matthew Lieshout, Oliver Sail, Ross McPhie. Coach: Chris Zoricich.

- Nelson

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