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Springs relegated in night of heartache

Western Springs worst fears are realised as Neil Emblen’s team suffer relegation heartache following a 3-2 loss to Birkenhead United.

Prior to the match there was much speculation as to how the Chatham Cup winners may view the final game of the season having already secured a second place finish.

But Paul Hobson’s heroes proved their appetite for success remained sharp as they tipped Western Springs out of the Lotto NRFL Premier League for at least one season.

Alex Grieve opened the scoring for Birkenhead United and Jack Salter shattered Western Springs hopes when he doubled the lead.

Curiously, Springs were back in the mix from the penalty spot courtesy of Rory Turner. Turner, who spent a season with Waikato FC, turned the screws on those of a Hamilton Wanderers persuasion as he threw his side a lifeline.

The comeback was fully on when Lucas Imrie equalised as Birkenhead United goalkeeper Liam Hobson was sent off.

Centreback Christian Gray donned the gloves for Birkenhead United and with Western Springs enjoying the momentum and a numerical advantage in terms of personnel, few would’ve doubted their capacity to take all three points and with it, Lotto NRFL Premier League safety.

But with just minutes left Sean Skeens scored the goal that condemned Western Springs to relegation handing Birkenhead United a 3-2 win.

Western Springs join Melville United and Tauranga City United in Lotto NRFL Division One for 2017 while Stirling Sports Premiership club Hamilton Wanderers grab a relegation reprieve by just a single point.

For neutral observers, in a season that began in late March and ran through into the final days of September, there could be a no more fitting, thrilling, end to a long campaign.

For Western Springs, who produced a stirring finish that very nearly saved themselves from the drop, will be of little consolation.

Match Result

Lotto NRFL Premier League

Wednesday 28 September

Birkenhead United 3

Western Springs 2

Halftime: 2-1.

BIR: Alex GRIEVE, Jack SALTER, Sean SKEENS

WES: Rory TURNER, Lucas IMRIE