Southend United and Waihopai brought down the curtain on Southland Football's 2014 senior men's round-robin competitions when they played out a 1-1 draw in their Donald Gray Cup clash at the ILT Football Turf in Invercargill on Saturday.
Last season's champion team Southend United had to settle for third position this season behind Old Boys and Queens Park, while Waihopai lifted themselves above bottom-placed Thistle with their point from the game.
Saturday's game opened in grand style for Southend when their first serious attack on Waihopai's defence resulted in a James McFelin shot deflecting past Waihopai keeper Shane Harpur to give his team a fourth minute 1-0 lead.
That was about as good as it got though, as the promise of a fast, open game faded with periods of average play and missed opportunities peppered by only a few moments of excitement.
That excitement was provided in the main by goalkeepers Harpur for Waihopai and Richie Ririnui for Southend, each making high-quality saves that kept their respective opponents at bay.
With nothing at stake, perhaps the teams could be excused for not showing the enthusiasm that would otherwise be the case.
Both teams, however, did display initiative at times, with Southend's Steve MacDonald, James McFelin and Kyle Schins combining enough to keep the Waihopai defenders on their toes, while Waihopai's Matty McDowell, Nick Hamlin and Carl Henderson were doing the same job for their team.
The defences stood fast though, thanks to solid games from Andy Ward, David Donegan and Matthew Butler for Southend and Ryan Kumar and Jarrid Halder for Waihopai.
Butler was having his debut game for Southend's senior team and acquitted himself well enough to maybe become an integral player in coach Iain Walker's future plans.
Southend managed to hold their 1-0 lead until 4 minutes from fulltime, when they failed to clear a strong header at goal by Waihopai's Henderson and McDowell was on hand to nudge the ball past Ririnui to secure Waihopai a share of the points.
"A disappointing result and season for us, but the introduction of Matthew Butler to senior football is the positive from this game," Southend coach Iain Walker said.
Waihopai player-coach Shane Harpur was delighted with the draw describing it as reward for the effort his players have produced despite a season plagued with injuries and player unavailability.
The Old Boys club continued its stellar season when its division one team halted Winton's three-year reign as champions following a resounding 8-0 win over Western Rovers at O'Rorke Park.
Old Boys, Queens Park and Gore Wanderers Red all had opportunity throughout the season to take the honours, with all three winning their games on Saturday to finish in that order.
The senior men's football season will conclude with the upcoming Charity Cup and Edinburgh Trophy knockout competitions.
- The Southland Times