Title win lifts Southend to top

STU MUNRO
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2013

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Southend United claimed Southland Football's Donald Gray Cup premier men's title on Saturday with a 4-0 win over Waihopai at Bain Park in Invercargill.

Success was sweet for Southend United, who last won the title in 2007 and had finished as wooden-spooners last year.

The change in fortune can be attributed to coach Iain Walker, who has managed to combine some of the club's more experienced players from last season with a group of talented youngsters to produce solid no-nonsense performances from week-to-week.

To support this, Walker named veteran Ian Watson as a linchpin and youngster Kyle Schins, who celebrated his 16th birthday last week, as an exciting prospect for the future.

Walker said his players all showed character to consistently outplay their opponents and remain unbeaten over 15 games.

"Coming from bottom last year to top this year is incredible and, of course, I am naturally delighted with the success," he said.

For the last 10 weeks of the season Southend held a one-point margin over second-placed Queens Park and protected that lead, including gaining two draws with Park in games that might otherwise have led to a different outcome in the title chase.

On Saturday, Southend's leading goal scorer James McFelin got them off to a perfect start with a goal after 12 minutes. Waihopai goalkeeper Shane Harpur then saved a McFelin penalty kick just two minutes later and with some assertive defensive work Waihopai kept the margin to 1-0 at the halftime break.

Five minutes into the second half Waihopai's approach, which had become slightly more aggressive, led to their downfall as Carl Henderson was shown his second yellow card and was subsequently sent from the field.

Southend's Schins increased his team's lead to 2-0 with a goal from close range then four minutes later Waihopai's Ben Murphy suffered the same fate as Henderson and the sheer weight of numbers swung in Southend's favour.

It was left to Kurt Knarston and Mike Sheridan to complete the scoring and secure the title for Southend.

At Surrey Park 3, Queens Park's Matty Burgess netted all five goals in their 5-0 win over Gore Wanderers.

Old Boys reversed a loss to Thistle in the previous round when they accounted for the same opponents 3-0 at the ILT Turf, thanks to goals from Atain Halley, two, and Danny Rosel.

Old Boys' Football South premier league team suffered a 3-1 loss at the hands of Green Island in the main game at the turf and now face a harrowing final three games to steer clear of finishing in the bottom two. Football South's proposed plan is for two teams to be removed to make way for an eight team competition next season.

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Bara'a Toubat struck Old Boys' goal in the first half but that was countered by Green Island's Craig Buddle and Lewis Jackson. Dan Rutter sealed the 3-1 win for the visitors in the second half.

Queenstown Rovers' chances of a comfortable finishing run in their quest for the premier women's title gained a major boost when they travelled to Winton and secured a 6-0 win.

Christina Werdke provided the weekend's highlight when she scored all six goals for her team to lift her season's tally to 39.

Queenstown, who have a stranglehold on the 2013 title, have four games remaining in the competition, all of which are to be played at the resort town.

- The Southland Times

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