Suburbs wrest win from Twenty
Suburbs were more than happy to "win ugly" as they rolled a resolute FC Twenty 11 side 3-1 at ASB Football Park in Christchurch.
Moments of individual skill punctuated the laboured fixture, lifting Suburbs to second place on a compressed Mainland Premier League table.
Any hopes of a rolling, fast and flowing game were put to bed as the home side took up two solid banks of four in a deep and defensive 4-4-2 formation.
After a 6-0 thrashing last weekend, FC Twenty 11 came out with one mission in mind – tighten up and do not concede another hexa-goal score-line against the league's most productive strikers.
"We knew the Nelson team would be quite strong in terms of performance, having the players they do," Twenty 11 coach Tsetso Ivanov said.
"We were able to defend well in the middle and defensive third.
"For long amounts of time we were able to cope with the pace on the left and right with Michael White and Gagame Feni going forward."
Through their defensive set-up FC Twenty 11 were competitive for most of the match, although they rarely threatened as the Suburbs back four ruled their area with iron authority.
Suburbs built on the solid base at the back through the holding midfielders, who released the express pace up-front and down the flanks for Nelson's best attacking forays.
Wesley Olea scored the opening goal after a nice through ball from White got him one-on-one with the keeper.
From the inside right of midfield White got the ball over the top to meet a bolting Olea down the right, who drilled the ball low across the keeper into the bottom left-hand corner.
However, Twenty 11 hit straight back, scoring their first goal in almost 400 minutes of football through a Stuart Bola penalty shot.
A dubious call for pulling his marker back went against Erik Panzer who was seemingly just giving as good as he got in a contest for the ball, but it was 1-1 through 15 minutes.
White took the second himself after being set-free down the right-hand side. White cut inside to beat his defender and put the ball onto his left foot and past the keeper for a 2-1 halftime lead.
The second half was fairly tight as Suburbs pressed for the third goal to kill-off Twenty 11's hopes. When a number of chances failed to yield the final blow, Suburbs' bench started to get the feeling it might be one of those days you concede an unlikely late equaliser.
Thankfully, super-sub Darren Cunningham wrestled the initiative in closing minutes. Picking up the ball in defence, Cunningham stormed forward through midfield and played a great pass over the top to Brandon Kay.
The ball bounced once before Kay's right foot made connection on the up and the outstanding volley riffled past the keeper.
Those moments of pace and skill highlighted a match dominated by dogged defence.
Co-coach Ben Wright said it was a scrappy game but one he was happy to win.
"There wasn't a great deal of high-quality football but I was happy with the result. Sometimes you have to win ugly," said Wright.
"It wasn't pretty. They were competitive, well organised and made it difficult for us.
"They [Twenty 11] had got a hiding the week before and they were up for it this week, they were compact and didn't allow us much space.
"I didn't think we played brilliantly but we created a few chances and deserved to win the game.
"I always feel we have goals in this team and when you go away from home and win 3-1 you've got to be pleased with that."
Elsewhere results in the Mainland Premier League aligned to allow Suburbs to move into second place within three points of the top placed Ferrymead Bays.
Ferrymead were held to a 1-all draw with Cashmere Technical, Christchurch United and Halswell United also sharing the points at 1-1. Coastal Spirit kept pace with Suburbs by defeating Western 3-1.
The Suburbs team took a few knocks with White nursing a sore leg after taking a kick while Mark Johnston (ankle) and Panzer (hip) are also in doubt for this afternoon's Chatham Cup match against FC Nelson.
Contrary to the match information listed on the New Zealand Football website, today's Chatham Cup knockout match between FC Nelson and Nelson Suburbs will kick-off at 1pm at Trafalgar Park.
- The Nelson Mail