Two second-half penalties to Auckland’s Birkenhead United has knocked a ten-man Nelson Suburbs out of the Chatham Cup at the penultimate stage.
Suburbs matched it with its more illustrious opponents for most of the Chatham Cup semi-final at a packed Saxton Field yesterday afternoon, but a penalty resulting from a Birkenhead free kick 15 minutes into the second half ended up sinking the hosts.
The Christian Gray effort was partially saved by Suburbs keeper Corey Wilson, who went the right way, but the ball had enough on it to sneak inside the left-hand upright.
The second penalty just minutes before full time was unlucky for the hosts as it appeared the Birkenhead striker simply missed the ball and fell over.
Once again Wilson got a hand to the Gray strike, but once again it wasn’t enough to keep it from hitting the back of the net.
Despite the score, Suburbs were in the contest for much of the game. An assured performance by the Suburbs back four of Sam Ayers, James McClay, Labu Pan and Jonathan Gough meant the visitors had few looks at goal, although a Sam Burfoot strike rattled the cross-bar mid-way through the first half.
Jordon Yong looked dangerous down the left flank on attack for Suburbs, but the few chances the hosts had were easily cleaned up by Birkenhead keeper Damian Hirst.
When McClay was shown a second yellow card mid-way through the second half the writing appeared to be on the wall for the hosts.
Suburbs coach Steve Bignall says his team did all they could.
“I’m proud of the way they played, I thought they stepped up big time. It was a big, big call, the first penalty, it changed the game, it changed the nature of the game, it was a very big call and the sending off was soft.
“We’ve shown we can foot it with the best in the North Island.”
Captain Ryan Stewart says his side are disappointed.
“We battled well in the first half and kept them to limited chances, we had a few ourselves but nothing too clear-cut. ”
“In the second half, when the referee makes a decision that is blatantly the wrong one, it changes the game. For our boys it was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Today we got outdone by some poor refereeing decisions.”
Birkenhead will meet Wellington’s Eastern Suburbs in the Chatham Cup final after it beat Cashmere Technical of Christchurch yesterday 3-2.