Sprig in prime spot in title race
Story by: Jonathan McKoeown - Nelson Mail - Photo by: Marc Palmano - Shuttersport
A goal in the first two minutes had Fuji Xerox bolting out of the blocks but their FC Nelson club mates finished stronger, with Nelson's division one football title now Sprig and Fern's to lose after a 4-1 win at Guppy Park on Saturday.
In an intense match that saw a red card and the Fuji coach ejected, Sprig have now opened up a three-point lead over Fuji with just two games remaining in the Nelson Pine Industries men's division one competition. Fuji will be hoping not only one but both of Sprig's remaining opponents can take points off them as Sprig have an almost unassailable goal difference of plus 13 over Fuji.
Fuji will need to collect maximum points from Queen St Pharmacy Richmond 1st XI and College over the next three weeks. Sprig play their remaining matches against Lonestar Nelson College and AMI Nelson Suburbs 1st XI and on current form should have no trouble sweeping to the title.
Kerry Eggers opened the scoring from a free kick two minutes into the match as Fuji took an early lead, though the distance was made up in style as Ant Sonneman struck back for the side in the black and white striped strip. Henry Fa'arodo whipped in the corner and while the finish was all class a failure to pick Sonneman up in defence was a critical error. At times some magic football was played with Sprig always having the slightest of edges through great work from the pairing of defender Sonneman and mid-fielder Neil Connell. The worst thing Fuji could do was gift Sprig a goal, but that is what happened as a Fuji defender scuffed a clearance from his own goal and Hayden Nunn made no mistake with just the keeper to beat - 2-1 to Sprig at half time.
Early in the second half Fuji were pushing hard but a series of incidents combined to put them on the back foot. Hot on attack the ball fell for Fuji's Brendan Harley with just the keeper to beat, a miscued shot saw the ball sail over the bar and a prime chance to equalise with it.
Soon after Fuji's Johnny Gough was shown a second yellow card and a subsequent red and Gough went to join coach Robbie Hansen watching from the sheds. After Gough's first card Hansen had questioned the official's call, pointing out that no technical area was marked out and exchanged a few words with a Sprig player causing the coach to be ejected from the field. Down a man and a coach, Fuji failed to adjust and a Sprig side that made every post a winner put the game and probably the title beyond reach as Fa'arodo and Davi Maciel rounded out the scoring.
In the other competition match a hat-trick from Ben Abele-Jackstiles saw Nelson College earn their first victory of the season in a convincing 3-1 win over Suburbs. College had the better of the exchanges through the first half although Suburbs did hit the cross bar from close range, taking advantage of some indecision from the College goalkeeper who had little else to do.
Eighteen minutes into the match Joe Krinkel delivered a quality free kick into the penalty area and the faintest of touches by Abele-Jackstiles was enough to see the ball past the goal keeper. Less than 10 minutes later an intelligent pass by Philip Tunepa saw Ben Abele-Jackstiles through for his second as he finished from close range for a 2-0 half-time lead.
Not long after the resumption of play Abele-Jackstiles showed a high level of urgency to chase down a back pass to the Suburbs keeper and the glove man's clearance was deflected by the forward, rebounding into the goal for a hat trick.
College welcomed back Andrew Baxendine to their defence after a long term injury. He was a steady influence in the defence, providing some extra experience to the backline.
Although Suburbs did get one back as Matson Fenny decided to repeat his heroics from last week's Mainland League side match for Suburbs, hitting a fine strike from outside the box and leaving the keeper no chance.
Suburbs coach Joe Green said his young side would learn a lot from their experience.
"Nelson College thoroughly deserved the win. They started brightly and we started poorly and they never allowed us back into the game.
"It was a lesson for our young players about preparing yourself mentally for games, not just being able to turn up and play."