Caroliners get their act together at last

SOUTH China gave their troubled season a lift by coasting to a stylish 4-0 victory over Ernest Borel in a Hongkong First Division match at Mongkok Stadium yesterday.

The Caroliners, fielding only three overseas players rather than the permitted five, scored twice in each half to record their biggest win of the campaign.

And the three points lifted them three places up the table into fifth on 10 points, while condemning Borel to their fourth successive defeat in league and Cup and leaving them only one place above the relegation zone.

A change of tactics, following their 4-0 defeat at the hands of Eastern in their most recent match, the Camelpaint Challenge Shield final on December 20, worked wonders for South China as they tore through a dispirited Borel outfit.

But this will not stop the Caroliners attempting to bolster their strikeforce in time for the Viceroy Cup and the Hongkong FA Cup, having already conceded their championship crown to Eastern.

South China boss Steven Lo, who awarded his players a bonus of $3,000 a man for yesterday's win, said: ''I am very happy with the performance; now the players are young and more active than before.

''We wanted to give the young players more of a chance and they responded well. Now they will get more chances.'' Former player-coach Trevor Morgan, who was released along with fellow striker Steve Neville after the Shield final, will introduce a new forward to the club this week.

The player is believed to be 20-year-old Mark Sale, a six-foot five-inch forward with English First Division club Birmingham City, where Morgan is assisting manager Terry Cooper, with whom he worked at Exeter City.

Sale, born in Burton-on-Trent in the English Midlands, played for Stoke City and Cambridge United before joining Birmingham City.

South China are also showing an interest in another forward, Goran Goudal, who is in Belgrade and has been put in touch with the club by their Bosnian striker Anto Grabo.

Grabo had an outstanding game yesterday, leading the line with great spirit and vision and receiving support in numbers from a five-man midfield anchored by skipper Chan Ping-on, whose sweeper's role was handed to Au Yeung Ying-tsz.

In the 23rd minute Grabo skilfully directed home a left-wing cross from Lee Fuk-wing, who rifled in the second himself eight minutes later with a stinging right-foot drive which beat Borel 'keeper Chan Shu-ming at his near post.

In the absence through injury of Leslie Santos, Chiu Chung-man was given an attacking role through the middle and scored the third with a long-range shot 10 minutes into the second half.

Loh Wai-chi rounded off the scoring by knocking the ball in from close range for his first goal of the season, nine minutes from time.

Borel remain in dire straits and team manager Tsui Kwok-on will see the club president this week to ask for permission to make changes in his overseas contingent.

Goalkeeper Tim Dalton and midfielder Craig Foster began the game on the substitutes' bench and Foster replaced his fellow Australian, Peter Murray, 19 minutes into the second half.

Tsui said they would be looking for a striker from England and possibly a new goalkeeper.

''I don't think we can expect any more from these players, although the blame lies with all the club, not just the foreign players. I accept the responsibility as team manager but cannot guarantee it will come right in time for the Viceroy Cup,'' said Tsui.