South China's second-choice players rose to the occasion yesterday when they steered their team to a 1-0 win over Guangzhou's Xiangxue Pharmaceutical at Mongkok to shoot the popular club to the top of the First Division standings. The Caroliners, who won 3-1 over Fukien in their league opening clash three weeks ago, were missing forward Chan Ho-man and midfielder Shum Kwok-pui through hip and thigh injuries respectively and fielded several second-choice players including midfielder Poon Man-tik in the starting lineup. South China took the lead in the 20th minute when Poon, who usually starts matches on the bench, volleyed home from 20 metres out after the mainlanders' defence failed to clear a Lee Kin-wo corner. After the teams changed ends, another second-choice player Tam Wai-kwok was given the nod to show his worth coming on for former Footballer of the Year Au wai-lun who hurt his back early in the second half. This meant the Caroliners were fielding the novel strike partnership of Tam and Kwok Man-tik. 'Our second-choice players including Poon Man-tik and Yeung Ching-kwong did well today,' said South China director Peter Leung Shou-chi. South China are having to make do on a tighter budget this season with projected spending down from $12 million to $8 million. Consequently they have retained only one foreign import - Brazilian defender Cristiano Cordeiro - and have signed four junior players to plug the gaps. One of those four juniors - 17-year-old forward Leung Chi-chun - made his First Division debut yesterday when he replaced Yeung in the second half. 'Leung Chi-chun lived up to my expectations although we can't expect him to be on the same level as Au Wai-lun and Chan Ho-man,' Leung said. 'We decided to give our junior players more chances as we're working on a smaller budget. We're looking for a centre-forward, probably from Nigeria, but it's not finalised yet,' Leung said. Leung warned against complacency after the two wins, saying: 'We have only beaten two relatively weak sides. The tough matches are still to come.' South China should not have much problem against minnows Hong Kong Football Club in their next league match on Friday. They then face Singapore's Home United in the return leg of the Asian Football Confederation Champions' League second-round in Singapore on Sunday. The reigning FA Cup, Senior Shield and League Cup champions won the home leg 2-1 at Hong Kong Stadium last Tuesday. In the other clash of yesterday's double-header, defending league champions Sun Hei were held to a 2-2 draw by Buler Rangers.