Lai's timely first goal spurs Eastern

VETERAN defender Lai Law-kau sparked Eastern to their 11th win in 12 league games with his first goal of the season in a 2-1 victory over Kui Tan at Mongkok Stadium last night.

The tough-tackling centre half, who was talked out of retirement by the club management on the eve of the campaign, ended Kui Tan's resistance with a 57th-minute near-post header.

Dale Tempest's 16th goal of the season followed 11 minutes later to give Eastern an unassailable 2-0 lead before Kui Tan grabbed an injury-time consolation goal through Tristram Morgan from the penalty spot.

Eastern now have 34 points from 12 matches and are 12 clear of Michelotti. Third-placed Instant-Dict have 21 points from 11 games.

With only six games to play, including a return match against bottom club British Forces, it will take a series of astounding results to prevent Eastern from claiming their first championship since 1956.

Kui Tan, who have won only one of their six league games this year, remain on 10 points, four ahead of Happy Valley, who occupy the second relegation spot. Their only two goals in their last four outings have both been penalties from Morgan, taking his season's tally to five.

They defended well last night, though, even after losing their combative marker, Darren Bloodworth, with a shin injury in the 22nd minute following a clash with Eastern striker Paul Nixon.

After a goalless first half, Kui Tan had a great chance to open the scoring but recent signing Graham Cooper was slow to react to a ball which broke kindly for him.

In the next minute Eastern were in front. Skipper Lee Kin-wo was the provider, bursting down the right and crossing for Lai to head home from close range.

When Lee repeated the move in the 68th minute, Tempest was on hand to crash in a right-foot volley.

Meanwhile, South China have made contact with Bill McMurdo, the agent for Celtic's Scottish international striker Frank McAvennie.

The Glasgow club want McAvennie to sign a contract to the end of the season and McMurdo has faxed the details of the deal to South China to see if the Caroliners can better it. English Premier League club Chelsea have also shown interest in McAvennie, whomust decide his future today.

Kitchee, having signed former England winger Mark Barham and non-league striker Damian Webber, are set to add 32-year-old centre forward Mark Falco to their books in time for the Viceroy Cup.

Falco, previously with Tottenham, Watford, Glasgow Rangers, QPR and Millwall, is now playing non-league with Worthing.

In other news, Sing Tao defender Jason Hall has received a two-match ban for being sent off for a retaliatory foul on Eastern winger Lee Kin-wo during a league game earlier this month.