Old Boys win, increase lead

AWKWARD POSITION: Old Boys player Callum Smith tries to avoid the challenge of Thistle’s Mike Dean during the Southland Donald Gray Cup football game at the ILT Turf in Invercargill.
AWKWARD POSITION: Old Boys player Callum Smith tries to avoid the challenge of Thistle’s Mike Dean during the Southland Donald Gray Cup football game at the ILT Turf in Invercargill.

Old Boys tightened their grip on Southland Football's Premier men's Donald Gray cup competition when they accounted for Thistle 6-0 at the ILT Turf in Invercargill on Saturday.

They moved to a clear two-point lead with a game in hand as their main rivals Queens Park and Southend United lost ground when they fought out a 2-2 draw in their game at Bain Park.

Old Boys dominated the first half of their game from the outset, so much so that goalkeeper Mitch Fowler's only call to action was to deal with a defensive back pass from a team-mate.

Despite their dominance, they had only a lone Callum Smith goal to show for their effort at the halftime break.

That was largely because of a fine goalkeeping display from Thistle's Darren Dummigan and some overcrowding by Old Boys' enthusiastic strikers in the penalty area leading to squandered opportunities.

Thistle, as they have done several times this season, were proving to be hard nuts to crack in the early stages of the game but it was clear that Old Boys would capitalise better by attacking with more width and penetration from the flanks.

As the second half unfolded, that proved to be the case as Old Boys strikers began finding the back of the Thistle net with regularity.

Callum Smith was the main destroyer notching up two further goals to complete a second consecutive hat-trick while Atain Halley, David Mwangi and Frank O'Boyle chimed in to complete the 6-0 scoreline.

At Bain Park, Queens Park took advantage of a lacklustre start by Southend United in their game, as two well-taken strikes from Matty Burgess led them to a 2-0 halftime lead.

It took Southend just three minutes into the second half to reduce the lead to 2-1 when speedster Steve MacDonald broke through the Queens Park defence to slot the ball into the Queens Park net.

Five minutes later an illegal tackle from Queens Park's keeper Chris Pearson allowed Southend striker James McFelin the opportunity to score from the penalty spot and he duly obliged giving Pearson no chance of a save and levelling the score at 2-2.

Queens Park and Southend United have had many close battles in the past and Saturday's game was another thrilling encounter as both sides attempted to claim the win.

There were enough strong midfield challenges and sorties on goal at both ends to keep the large crowd entertained as the game headed toward the final whistle.

Despite Southend being reduced to 10 players late in the game with the sending off of Dave Donegan, Queens Park were unable to take advantage of the situation.

Outstanding for Southend was their young goalkeeper Richard Ririnui, who has adapted well to the role throughout the season and is now showing a confidence that belies his youth.

In predictable after-match comments, Queens Park coach Cory Johnson said he was disappointed his team failed to protect or build on their two-goal lead, while Southend's Iain Walker was delighted with the fightback to 2-2 but reserved judgment on his team's sluggish first-half display.

Division One: Winton 9, Western Rovers 1; Old Boys 2, Queens Park 1; Gore Wanderers Black 8, Waihopai 3. Division Two: Southend United Green 4, Southend United Black 0; Queens Park 1, Cleanways Thistle 1; Old Boys Black 7, Waihopai 0; Thistle Blue 2, Old Boys White 1; Queens Park Masters 3, Western Rovers 2; Gore Wanderers 2, Old Boys Red 1. 

The Southland Times