Southern come from behind to secure win on the road
Southern left it late, but in-form striker Garbhan Coughlan scores a brace to extend the team's unbeaten record to five games
With slight hopes still remaining of a playoff spot, Southern knew only a win was good enough as they took on Tasman United in Nelson on Sunday. Back in Dunedin last year, Southern secured a 3-1 win after having played down a man for large portions of the game.
The Tasman team that approached the game was of a significant different outfit than the one seen in Dunedin. With several summer signings, Tasman had recorded three games undefeated and looked to make strides up the table. For Southern the aim was two-fold - (1) give themselves a chance to still be in playoff contention, (2) improve on their best-ever-recorded season from last year (24 pts).
On a not so unsurprisingly warm day in Nelson, it was Southern that started off the strongest. Southern created several big chances through Garbhan Coughlan and Conor McDonald most notably, but were not able to efficiently convert. Tasman played direct, and it was off their target man up front they enjoyed most success. Tasman took the lead by following this very approach, as they won the header off the goalkick, the ball was passed out wide, and the subsequent cross found their striker back post. Similar to the home game against Waitakere United, Southern struggled to establish a proper rhythm in play and the teams were a goal apart by halftime.
The second game proved a totally different affair. Southern came out with a brand new vigor, and the team's chances were helped when Tasman went a man down early in the second half. It was all about Southern after that. Tasman sat deep as they looked to defend their lead, while Southern chased the game, dominating possession and desperately pursuing the equalizer. While space did open up for the away team, Southern were not able to convert and it wasn't until the 81st minute Southern finally broke the deadlock. Southern recovered a lost ball, Conor O'Keeffe strode forward with the ball and found a free Coughlan in the box. An excellent first-time strike found the top corner and the teams were equal. The away team kept pushing, and in the 88th minute they earned themselves a corner. Abdulla Al-Kalisy's corner found the head of who other than.... Garbhan Coughlan, and Southern had taken the lead!
Southern had to hold on, as six minutes of extra time was added, but the lead was never under any significant threat as Southern extended their unbeaten run to five games. However, with Canterbury beating Team Wellington, they secured their playoff spot that same day as the head-to-head record takes main precedence in the league.
Southern will take on Wellington Phoenix Reserves this upcoming Sunday at Sunnyvale Park. Hope to see you there!