Words Supplied: Gavin Searle – Mainland Football
Christchurch United and FC Nelson start their quest for a prized spot in the Mainland Premier League (MPL) for 2020 when they go head-to-head in the 1st leg of the promotion play-off series at Guppy Park, at 1pm on Saturday.
The 2nd leg is set down for the following week at the Christchurch Football Centre, with the winner replacing relegated FC Twenty11 in the MPL.
United, who were one of the original twelve sides that contested the MPL first kicked off in 2002 will go into the play-off as favourites after dominating the Canterbury Championship League – going through the 12 rounds without dropping a point, reaching the quarter finals of the Chatham Cup and making the Final of the Blackwells Holden English Cup – defeating nearly all of the MPL sides during their cup runs.
FC Nelson, who are coached by experienced Paul Brydon and have several of their players having had MPL experience with Nelson Suburbs in their squad.
The club is relatively new, being formed in 2011 after a merger of four clubs, topped the Nelson Bays Division 1 league with a 9 nine win, 2 draw and 4 loss record an have flagged their aspirations of gaining MPL in the long term.
The clubs president, George Molner said “We know United will be favourites, our players and the whole club are looking forward to Saturday’s game. It is important to show our players we are serious about reaching the MPL, so if we do not make it this time it will set a benchmark to where we have to be”.
United have made it clear all season that their intention was to regain MPL status and while the cup runs have been an added bonus, promotion will be a great way to celebrate what is the clubs 50th season after being formed to contest the ‘old’ national league in 1970.
If United win promotion it will be their fourth stint in the MPL, 2002 – 06, 2009 – 12 and 2015.
FC Nelson will be looking to become the 21st club to play in the top flight and just third from the Nelson region behind Suburbs and Richmond Athletic.
The play-offs series format is if the each side wins a game and the aggregate scores are level then thirty minutes of extra time will be played and if extra time does not produce a winner then penalties will be used to decide which side will win promotion.