Tam keeps Eastern in perfect shape

TWO goals from midfielder Tam Siu-wai maintained Eastern's perfect record at the top of the Hongkong First Division with a 2-0 victory over Sing Tao at Mongkok Stadium last night.

The pint-sized playmaker pushed Eastern in front as early as the 15th minute and settled a hard-fought encounter with his second just 10 minutes from the end, when Sing Tao were down to 10 men following the 59th-minute dismissal of sweeper Jason Hall.

On an eventful evening for Tam he was also in action during the half-time interval, collecting his cheque for being voted player of the month for December.

Eastern's victory moved them on to 24 points from eight straight wins, six clear of second-placed Michelotti and with a game in hand.

Champions South China are third in the 10-team table, 11 points behind Eastern but with a game in hand on their arch rivals.

Eastern complete their first round of fixtures on Monday against bottom club British Forces, who now have the chance to become the first side to score against Eastern in the league this season.

Goalkeeper Iain Hesford has not conceded a goal in 12 hours of league football, while his teammates have notched 24 at an average of three a game at the other end.

Such is their domination of the local scene this season that four of their players are among the league's 12 leading scorers, with Dale Tempest on 13, four clear of strike partner Paul Nixon. Tim O'Shea has bagged five and Tam's double last night moved him on to four.

Sing Tao could feel very unlucky not to get a point out of the match, however, as they opened up the Eastern defence on a handful of occasions but were let down by poor finishing, particularly from John Moore, Hesford's former teammate at Sunderland.

They were also forced to play the last half-hour with only 10 men when Hall, who had done a fine job checking the dangerous runs of Lee Kin-wo down Eastern's right flank, was shown the red card for kicking out at the speedy winger after he had fouled Hall, an offence which earned Lee a yellow card.

It was Lee's corner from the right which led to Eastern's opening goal in the 15th minute, with left-winger Ross Greer winning the first header at the back post and Tam knocking it home from close range for his first goal for the club since October 10.

As Sing Tao battled to keep Eastern in check, left-back Wong Kok-yan was shown the yellow card for bringing down Nixon and Moore followed him into the book soon after for a foul on Eastern centre-back Lai Law-kau. Then it was Nixon's turn to be cautioned for a trip on goalkeeper Peter Guthrie.

With 10 minutes remaining and Eastern in control, Lee swung over a cross from the right, Greer's powerful header was blocked by Guthrie and Tam was on hand to tap in the loose ball.

Scottish striker Ian McParland is on a shortlist of possible replacements for midfielder Townsend Qin at Instant-Dict.

Qin, the Shanghai-born playmaker who had a stint with Sing Tao last season, has been recalled by his American club, the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, and will leave Hongkong next month.

And Instant-Dict are interested in strengthening their Northampton Town connection by talking terms with Edinburgh-born McParland, 31, who is on a week-to-week contract with the English Third Division side.

Three of Instant-Dict's five overseas players, Trevor Quow, Steve Berry and Adrian Thorpe, have all played for Northampton during their careers in England.

McParland began his career with Notts County and scored 69 goals in 221 league appearances before moving on to Hull City and Walsall. He spent last season playing in Scotland for Dunfermline Athletic.