Southern starts top-four bid in style

Southern United striker Joel Stevens scores in the second half of his side's match against Tasman...
Southern United striker Joel Stevens scores in the second half of his side's match against Tasman United at Logan Park on Saturday. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Four goals in the bank.

Sun on their backs.

A brand-new pristine artificial turf to play on.

What could Southern United coach Paul O'Reilly possibly have to yell about?

Not much at all. But he was dead keen to urge his side on for every second of its 4-0 win against Tasman United at the new artificial turf at Logan Park on Saturday afternoon.

"We are absolutely delighted," he said in a hoarse voice.

"It is the first time since I've been here that we've won the first game of the season.

"It was energy-zapping stuff out in that heat and after 65 minutes our boys were absolutely out on their feet.

"But we just want to be better all the time and I was looking for a bit more from them."

O'Reilly is in his fourth year with the side and the team has gone from perennial battlers to two consecutive fifth-place finishes.

But this season it is hoping to make the top four. It is a big leap from fifth to fourth but the team has made a terrific start and looks to have more potency up front.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins (left) and Fifa representative Juan Pablo Angel, a former Aston Villa...
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins (left) and Fifa representative Juan Pablo Angel, a former Aston Villa forward and Colombian international, cut the ribbon to officially open the $4million Dunedin artificial turf at Logan Park on Saturday. Photo: Adam Burns
Joel Stevens made a big impact in his first outing in Southern colours since 2013.

The forward has pace and flair and he was sharp in front of goal. He banged in two.

The first was a great volley after striker Garbhan Coughlan put in a pinpoint cross, and the second came early in the second half.

Abdulla Al-Kalisy stabbed through a short pass and Stevens got in behind the defence and easily beat the goalkeeper in a one-on-one.

Central defender Stephen Last opened the scoring when he got free on the far post and nodded in from a corner.

And Coughlan also got on the score sheet. He beat the off-side trap and the keeper in the 58th minute.

Tasman went close twice. Defender Fox Slotemaker rattled the upright from long range.

And Southern keeper Liam Little somehow denied Tasman from a corner with a sensational diving effort.

It looked a certain goal had it not been for the long-limbed gloveman.

Tasman's Jama Boss was always threatening when he had the ball but Southern dominated the encounter, even if it did wilt in the heat in the final quarter.

Stevens was the star.

"We knew when Joel came back down we were getting a really good player and he has chipped in with a couple," O'Reilly said.

"He is electric and I think he is only going to get better."

It was Southern's first game at the new artificial turf and O'Reilly described it as "an absolute godsend".

"It has kicked things off on a another level for us. It is an absolute dream," he said.

A crowd of perhaps 300 enjoyed the match from the embankment.

The turf was officially opened earlier in the day by Fifa representative former Columbian international Juan Pablo Angel and Football South chief executive Chris Wright.

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