Rangers AFC put some daylight between themselves and closest rival Nelson FC when they prevailed 2-1 at Nelson’s Guppy Park on Saturday.
At the start of the day Nelson FC, who had lost just once in the Nelson division one league this season, trailed Rangers by four points with five games remaining.
They needed a win to put the pressure back on the Blenheim outfit, and turned up with a strong, experienced side.
However, it was the visitors though who began strongest, Carl Connor-McClean earning a penalty after just three minutes, coolly converted from the spot by midfielder Tore Waechter.
Despite several clear-cut chances being created at both ends of the park, the remainder of the first half was scoreless.
It took only 10 minutes of the second half however for the home side to draw level, converting a penalty of their own.
In such even contests, sometimes it takes a moment of magic to decide the issue and this time it was Waechter who found the formula, with just five minutes remaining. Spotting the Nelson keeper standing well off his line, he lobbed the ball into the top corner of the net from 45 metres.
Although the sides played six minutes of extra time and Rangers’ goal came under intense pressure, a fine save from keeper Dan Diamond and resolute defence allowed the visitors to claim the spoils.
Rangers’ Manager Wolfie Waechter described Nelson as a “very good, classy, team”.
“This was our third great battle against them … we had some players carrying minor injuries and it was a complete team effort to keep Nelson out … I am immensely proud of our boys’ efforts, they played their hearts out.”
Two-goal hero Tore Waechter was Rangers’ player of the day, while fellow midfielder Scott Belsham, Jordy Columbus and Liam Sluiter, who marked Nelson’s dangerous striker, were also outstanding.
Next week Rangers play Suburbs in Blenheim.
Meanwhile, the Blenheim Valley Bullets women’s side dominated throughout their Nelson division one match with Motueka at A and P Park on Saturday, eventually winning 12-1.
Bullets scored six goals in each half – the prolific Tiana Williams bagging six, Lauren Sloan getting two while Lucy Martin, Tessa Hyland, Abby Owen and Freya Thompson also got on the scoreboard.
Coaches Ian Thomas and Alan Elvy were ecstatic with the game and the result. They acknowledged the huge contribution from Williams in creating opportunities and making them count, and the work rate from Sloan.
“Our player of the day was Thompson for her tireless efforts, consistently impeccable crosses and corners, and for her outstanding goal,” said Thomas.
Next week Bullets meet top-of-the-table Richmond Foxes.
The finalists have been found in the Marlborough Knockout Cup competition, and it is will be an all-Central affair.
Central Wolves will take on clubmates Central Buccaneers next weekend for the prized silverware after contrasting semifinal victories on Saturday.
Wolves accounted for BV Masters 6-3 while Buccaneers beat Call Care Trojans 7-6 after scores were level 3-3 at fulltime.
Wolves led 3-2 at halftime in a close encounter at A and P Park, which was marked by the sending off of Masters’ striker Ben Clarke midway through the second spell for a second yellow card.
From then on Wolves prospered, taking the match out of Masters’ reach. Shane Evans, Scott Wilkinson and Steve McCaa scoring doubles, while Masters’ goals came from Clarke, Matt Robertson and an own goal.
The other semi was staged at Athletic Park, and turned into a penalty-shootout thriller.
Trojans started the game strongly with the wind at their backs, Thomas Lupani giving them the lead in the 14th minute, then a Gustavo Cruz double seeing them 3-0 up after half an hour.
However, Buccaneers clawed back into contentione with a Thom Hall goal before half time. With the wind at their backs in the second spell Buccaneers upped the ante but it took until the 67th minute before they got their second goal via Scott Hannan, then a long range effort from Ryan Palmer tied things up with four minutes to play.
Extra time came and went with no addition to the score before a tense afternoon for players, coaches and spectators culminated in a penalty shootout, Buccaneers sneaking through by this method for the second time in the competition.
In next week’s Knockout Shield final, Call Care Spartans take on Rangers Masters while, in the KO Bowl, Rangers Development will play Rangers Clubs of Marlborough in the decider.