WaiBOP United has been held to a 1-1 draw at Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, in a rough and tumble ASB Premiership with Waitakere United.
A rather cagey opening was pock-marked by various sparks of life, not least of which when the visiting captain, Andy Boyens, hit Danyon Drake’s upright in the 7th minute.
Despite that warning, we had the better of the opening 45 minutes, with Waitakere United’s goalie, Alex Carr, busy and centre-half, Alec Solomons, impressing. We pushed forward with purpose but too often either the final ball didn’t stick or our shot went high or wide. Local lad, Jerahl Hughes, was lively, while Chad Coombes worked not only his socks, but also his boots, off.
The visitors looked dangerous from set pieces, particularly with their tall timber, but we’ve sharpened up our defending against the dead ball and handled the dead ball stuff better than earlier in the season.
Waitakere opened the scoring in the 36th minute when Tom Biss calmly finished an incisive counter attack, but within a minute we’d headed up the other end only to see Federico Marquez’ goal-bound drive deflected wide by the impressive Solomons.
The second half was a tasty physical affair, with a number of players making their way into the book. We continued to press and had more of the ball but couldn’t find a clear opening until the 76th minute. Alexis Varela worked some space on the edge of the box and curled his shot around Carr, who was finally beaten. We had our equaliser.
The final quarter-hour was willing from both sides. Danyon Drake made a couple of excellent saves, including a great effort from an Adam Dickinson header, while Jerahl Hughes was thwarted by another brilliant piece of work by Alex Carr.
It stayed level until the end, which would just about suited both sides. We’re unbeaten at home and officially on the board.
Head coach Pete Smith said he was content with a point but felt that his side could have left with the victory with a strong display in the final quarter of the game. “If you’d said to me before the game we’d be a goal down, then we’d probably be happy with a draw,” Smith said. “But having seen our efforts in the last 20, we’re a little disappointed with a draw with the chances we created.”
Entering the halftime break a goal behind, Smith said the home side had a few things to work-on for the second period and the team’s improvement in those areas provided a platform to get back on level terms. “At halftime we spoke about that final ball and that final delivery and just to do the basics right. If we kept moving the ball then the gaps would appear and inevitably they did,” he explained. “We were probably our own victims in the fact that we were giving the ball away cheaply, particularly in the middle of the park. We did address that at halftime and that was reflected in how we played in the second half.
“We certainly deserved something out of the game and the last 20 I was particularly happy with because it has been a tough week for the players and the coaching staff and I think we showed a huge degree of resilience there to pull the group together.”