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It has been a tough couple of weeks for Southland United and it does not get any easier tomorrow.
The side has conceded 10 goals in its past two games in the Southern Football League, losing 4-0 and 6-1 to the top two sides in Nomads United and Cashmere Technical.
In this weekend’s only game, it now has to travel to Christchurch to face third-placed Coastal Spirit.
That would be enough of a challenge.To make things tougher, this is a Coastal Spirit side coming off a rampant 11-1 win over Queenstown FC last weekend.
It was a big scoreline and continued the theme of the three South teams struggling in the league.
Dunedin Technical has been the most competitive, but fell into the bottom half with a 2-0 loss to Cashmere last week.
Queenstown and Southland fill the bottom two spots.
Of the eight points the three have claimed, six have come in matches against each other.
Despite that, Southland coach Luis Pavia did not feel the gap between the trio and the Mainland teams was as big as the scores would suggest.
"I don’t think the score tells the truth about the difference between the teams from Football South and the teams from Mainland," he said.
"At the end of the day the score is what counts, and that is reality. But I don’t think the difference is so big to justify 6-1 or 11-1.
"I think the difference that most of the teams from up north have is experience. They have squads with older players who have played at a higher level.
"When the game is tight they have more options, more solutions to score one more goal, to prevent one more goal.
"That’s, for me, the most important thing."
For Southland, a lack of depth had been a challenge.It had often competed well in the first half and then struggled to keep up when it needed to change things and players got tired in the second. Pavia said the size and structure of the clubs in Christchurch created a better environment to perform well.
Likewise, the population base meant there was easier access to more and better players.
Despite that, he felt it was a good starting point and the South teams would raise their standard from being exposed to the higher level.
"We just have to find ways to get better.
"For us down here, it’s all about trying to get the young players into a good environment for learning and allow them to, in a couple of years, be playing at a higher level, or be playing this league better than they are now.
"So the challenge for us is to get those two, three, four, five experienced players, and we have to find them out of Invercargill, so they can help the young ones and take them to the next level."