Club's promotion goal on ice
Story by: Jonathan McKoeown - Nelson Mail - Photo by: Marc Palmano - Shuttersport
FC Nelson will not seek promotion into the Mainland Premier League for next season although it remains a long-term goal for the newly established club whose Sprig and Fern team claimed the division one football title on Saturday.
With a game to spare, Sprig and Fern won the Nelson Pine Industries men's division one football title after a nil-all draw with Lonestar Nelson College at Broads on Saturday. The single point gained was enough thanks to Queens Street Pharmacy Richmond upsetting their closest opponents FC Nelson Fuji Xerox 4-2 at Jubilee Park.
Formed in 2011, FC Nelson is the result of a merger of Nelson United, Nelson City, Metro and Tahuna Football clubs. Although the clubs were linked administratively as FC Nelson in 2011, FC Nelson Sprig and Fern took the league title in the first year FC Nelson have put out a combined side.
Sprig coach Steve Bignall said the team celebrated with a few pints but the real celebrations would have to wait until after their final game against AMI Nelson Suburbs First XI this weekend.
A former Ferrymead Bays and Nelson Suburbs coach, Bignall moved to FC Nelson this season after helping coach Richmond to back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011. It is widely believed that Richmond lost several key individuals and players for not following through on their Mainland League aspirations in 2011.
Both Bignall and FC Nelson club president Martin Byrne said the club never intended to seek promotion into Mainland Football's top league as this year was all about building strength.
"We won't be seeking promotion this year," said Bignall. "The reason behind that is the brief for this year was just to improve and we would need to put a better side together than this one.
"We have got a lot of very good kids coming through that will hopefully form the basis of FC Nelson's first team in a couple of years' time. We are really in a holding mould this year, waiting for some of these talented kids to come through."
Bignall said the manner in which the trophy was won was slightly underwhelming.
"It wasn't a pretty game but you do what you have to.
"I'm really pleased with the team. We didn't have a big squad, we didn't have a lot to work with, and so we did well really to win it.
"They were a good bunch of lads to work and socialise with . . . "
Sprig was given a tough working over by a Nelson College side that is starting to peak ahead of their national secondary schools tournament in early September.
Despite some creative approach play, College could not hit the target, with Tom Graham and George Kaikui missing chances from decent areas.
In the second half, College had a large share of possession and could have won the game but a late rasping shot from youngster Joel Harden was saved by the Sprig keeper.
Harden was a constant threat while at the back the College defence was sound with keeper Jordan MacMillan contributing well.
In the second competition match of the weekend, goals from Sean Parkes and Derryn French for Fuji were eclipsed by a double from Richmond's Mike Campbell and goals to Sam Barnett and Clay Wilhelmus.
Richmond took their opportunities and were extremely happy to get some points after an extended lull. Richmond were led by the experienced Campbell and the young fullback pairing of Josh Johnston and Keegan Hollis was also very good.
On the other hand, injuries compounded an already weakened Fuji squad that until last week were neck-and-neck with Sprig in the title race.
"It's just one we will have to take on the chin," said Fuji coach Robbie Hansen.
"Sprig and Fern deserve their title but it was kind of a bitter pill to swallow as there has been not much between the sides all season.
"But to see both the FC Nelson sides at the top of the table is certainly very pleasing."