Former Canterbury United striker Jamie Smith inspired champions Cashmere Technical to a comeback victory in his final Mainland Premier League game.
Tech coach John Brown said Western were deservedly leading 2-1 until Smith came on and helped turn the tables for the Chatham Cup finalists at Garrick Park on Saturday.
Smith scored Tech's equaliser direct from a corner and later fired over a free kick for centreback Tom Schwarz to head into the top corner for a 3-2 win.
"That's probably Jamie's last [Mainland Premier League] game," Brown said. "He's succumbed to injury and he's going to retire at the end of the season. He came on at 2-1 down and scored the next goal and set up the third. It was a great way to finish his last game at home."
Tech entered the game with the league trophy in their possession and a home Chatham Cup final confirmed, but Brown said they still wanted to beat Western to keep the Hurley Challenge Shield for the summer.
"But we were really poor in the first half and Western fully deserved their lead, in fact they could have been even further ahead at halftime."
Brown said he wasn't sure if his players were feeling flat after their big Chatham Cup semifinal win over Wellington Olympic but they rallied after the interval and dominated the second half.
"Andy Pitman wasn't there and he's been our driving force this season, and we also rested Danny Boys. But Danny came on in the second half and changed the game. He gave us a bit of drive in central midfield."
Brown said striker Stu Kelly had a strong game and gave Tech a 1-0 lead before Western levelled with a superb counterattack after a Tech corner. Julian Morris' team broke quickly and Daniel Moir delivered a great ball for Hamish Cadigan to score.
Tech were caught napping at the far post, letting John Sansom bang home Western's second goal.
But Smith's and Schwarz's second-half efforts spared the home team's blushes - and preserved the eight-point margin over second-placed Nelson Suburbs at the top of the MPL standings.
Brown's main aim now is to make sure none of his men are injured or suspended in Saturday's South Island Championship final against Southern League champs Dunedin Technical in Dunedin.
He planned to rest Kelly rather than risk the former Scottish junior international picking up a booking which could sideline him from the Chatham Cup final.
Brown might have to give himself a stern talking-to. The generally genial Glaswegian was banished from the dugout after an ill-advised comment to the referee on Saturday. Brown said he "apologised later" and manager Paul Nicholls, a former national league player, took over the coaching "at 2-1 down and got us through to a 3-2 win".
Tech topped the table on 49 points with Nelson on 41, and Ferrymead Bays and Western on 38.
AT A GLANCE
Final round results
Cashmere Technical 3 (Stu Kelly, Jamie Smith, Tom Schwarz) Western 2 (Hamish Cadigan, John Sansom). HT: 1-2.
Ferrymead Bays 0 Halswell United 1 (Oliver Norman). HT: 0-1.
FC Twenty11 2 (Brandon Wither 2) Coastal Spirit 2 (Gareth Turnbull, Tristan Nichol). HT: 0-1.
Nelson Suburbs 5 (Gagame Feni 2, Ben Wright, Neil Connell, Ryan Stewart) Nomads United 1 (Tom Broadley) HT:1-0.
Final standings: Cash Tech 49, Nelson 41, F'mead Bays 38, Western 38, Halswell 29, Coastal 24, Nomads 13, FC Twenty 6.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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