We have fallen to a narrow defeat at Kiwitea Street on a scorching afternoon where some of the football was as hot as the mid-summer conditions.
The hosts were on fire from the off and went ahead on five minutes when Sam Burfoot shot home, leaving Danyon Drake with no chance in goal.
Some of Auckland City’s early play made it look like we’d be in for a long afternoon but we held on through some staunch defending and a little bit of luck.
Then, just before the half hour mark, we were level. Mark Jones found himself on the end of a swift counter and finished crisply for his second goal in two weeks.
Auckland City still had the impetus, though, and on 32 minutes they fired a massive warning across the WaiBOP bows. Marko Dordevic rose to head a Tim Payne free kick goalwards. This first effort was saved superbly by Drake, but it would be a routine to be repeated with devastating effect a little later.
Part one came right on the half time whistle. Dordevic flashed the first of two headed strikes past Drake in added time at the end of the first half to restore the lead for his side.
Worse was to come in the 58th minute when City repeated the routine. Dordevic’s effort gave his side a seemingly comfortable two goal cushion.
We weren’t done, however, and grabbed hold of our lifeline with twelve minutes remaining courtesy of the magical left foot of Federico Marquez.
Auckland City were able to close the game down in the final minutes and, as much as we pressed, we couldn’t find one final opening. There were to be no last minute heroics this week.
A flurry of added time bookings, including a red card to head coach, Pete Smith, maintained the interest right to the end.
As would be expected, Smith had mixed feelings after the game. “We were frustrated at times, and that probably led to what happened at the end, but again I’m pleased with the effort the lads put in today,” he said after the game. “We scored a couple of good goals and went close to forcing another opening near the end, so I look at that and have to be pleased.
“Having said that, at times we didn’t defend well on set-pieces, including two of their goals. That’s disappointing, because we work on that at training. Despite that, we were in the game to the end so I guess it’s a case of being pleased with most of what we did but frustrated with several key things.”
Smith praised the work rate of his side in difficult conditions. “It was hot today but the lads worked really, really hard. I can’t fault anything on that front. They continue to put it in for us week after week. That’s important and if we keep that going we’ll keep the pressure on the other teams looking for those play-off spots.”