Another loss for Sprig and Fern
Story by: Jonathan McKoeown - Nelson Mail - Photo by: Shaun Bowie/shuttersport
FC Nelson Fuji Xerox outclassed their stable-mates FC Nelson Sprig & Fern sealing a 4-2 win
The "keeper's curse" struck again for Sprig and Fern as the league leaders fell to their second straight defeat 4-2 against FC Nelson club mates Fuji Xerox on Victory Square.
Concurrently, Nelson Suburbs continued on their upward trajectory with a 3-1 win over Nelson College on Saturday.
In his first game for FC Nelson, Sprig and Fern's stand-in keeper Peter Moot could have been forgiven for being tentative when pulling on the green jersey. Every other player in the Sprig shot stopper position has gone down injured, Jan Kovac with a broken finger and Mark Currie with a knee injury.
And sure enough, only 10 minutes into the match Moot pulled off the glove to reveal a badly dislocated finger.
"The ref stopped and we looked over, he [Moot] took his glove off and the referee actually had to pop it back in place," said Rick Gower, Sprig and Fern team manager. "It seems to be a bit of a keeper's curse at the moment."
However it wasn't just bad luck that cost Sprig the match, it was the palpable desire Fuji showed in a determined effort, where they just seemed to be first to the ball.
In front of goal, outside the box, or even from the corner, Fuji's sharp shooter Sean Parkes is in irresistible form. Parkes opened the scoring from a free kick and followed it up with a second-half goal which he curled in from the corner flag. Sprig's luckless No1 was seen cursing the football gods as he seemed to lose the ball in the sun.
Earlier, Ben Pitcaithly got the lollies for Fuji in a scramble in front of goal to make it 2-1 at halftime following a Sprig equaliser from Davor Tavich.
Sprig captain Neil Connell pulled one back at 3-2 with a fine volley as the confidence of a top-of-the-table side allowed them to keep pushing forward, however the game was made safe through Fuji's Brendon Harley.
Having his best game of the season Harley scored the goal of the match, despite some stiff competition, after he picked up the ball in midfield, turned and, seeing Moot off his line, let loose with a ball that sailed into the net.
Notwithstanding the 4-2 scoreline, Sprig's central defensive pairing of Ants Sonneman and Stephen Galbraith was industrious. But they were probably outshone by a solid effort from Fuji's Adrian Cupit and Johnny Gough who did well to cut down the chances of Solomon Islands international Henry Fa'arodo.
Fuji's victory allowed them to draw level with Sprig on 19 points and took the intra-club match record to one apiece with one draw. Sprig still lead the competition on goal difference.
"The guys are pretty disappointed to lose two-in-a-row. We had only lost one all season before last week," said Gower.
Fuji Xerox coach Robbie Hansen said it was as close to a 90-minute performance as his team had got this season.
AMI Nelson Suburbs accounted for Lonestar Nelson College to take their third win on the bounce at Saxton Field on Saturday. Suburbs are a team on the rise but a slow start should have seen an enterprising College team ahead at halftime.
A defensive error allowed Suburbs' Mainland League player Denis Ifunaoa to pick up the ball, slip a defender and open the scoring. However, College hit back through Ben Abele-Jackstiles, in fine form as he picked up the equaliser and forced saves from the Suburbs keeper. When George Kaikui had a shot knocked out of the top-left-hand corner, it was evident Simon Capenerhurst was the reason Suburbs went into the break on level terms.
In the second half Suburbs came into their own to control possession well and after a slow start, the influx of talent took its toll. Returning New Zealand age-grade representative Alex Risdale had his free-kick turned in by Daniel Grimshaw before Neil Mason came on to bury a pure strike in the back of the net from 25 metres.
"I didn't think some of our attacking players worked hard enough, and that may have been due to the changes in personnel and the college team playing well, but it was a much better second half," said Suburbs co-coach Joe Green.
Nelson College coach Dave Shaw said it was disappointing to not take the three excellent opportunities in the first half, but was happy with the performance in holding a strong Suburbs side for 75 minutes.
Nelson Suburbs Development used the Mainland League bye week to give players lacking game time a chance to sharpen up, although the young members of Queen Street Pharmacy Richmond First XI held their own in a 1-1 draw.