A 90th minute winner from Fergus Neil has clinched a 4-3 come-from-behind win over Canterbury United on Saturday at John Kerkhof Park in Cambridge.
Having fallen behind on three separate occasions, we hauled ourselves level each time and then clinched a dramatic victory as Fergus Neil pounced – scoring his second of the day – as the game entered stoppage time.
The visitors took a 35th minute lead via Aaron Clapham after the Dragons midfielder regained possession and drove forward to clip the ball home beyond WaiBOP keeper Danyon Drake. It was one of few clear cut openings in a cagy first half, but things were soon to change.
Canterbury United maintained their advantage until the halftime break but we were level inside 60 seconds of the restart as Wade Molony bent the ball home after good work from Mark Jones in the lead up.
However, Canterbury were in front again just two minutes later after Ashley Wellbourn slotted home.
Again we found an equaliser, Fergus Neil rolling the ball into the net after Jones’ cross was flicked on by Federico Marquez.
Parity lasted just under 20 minutes before new Canterbury United signing Adam Dickinson earned a penalty which was dispatched by Clapham as the visitors hit the front again.
Almost inevitably, in such a topsy turvey second half, we found an equaliser, Jones the scorer this time, rifling home in the 81st minute after Reid Drake provided the opportunity with some neat play in the Canterbury area.
Having levelled once again, we then found the dramatic late winner as the game entered stoppage time, Neil striking home after being played into the Canterbury box by Robbie Greenhalgh.
Adam Highfield in Canterbury’s goal denied Federico Marquez and Jarrod Young with top saves earlier in the half and was also superb in keeping out new signing, Van Elia, twice in stoppage time.
WaiBOP United coach Peter Smith was delighted to get across on the line in what was a thrilling ride for the home fans with his team showing some strong character to earn the points.
“I don’t think the heart can take a few more games like that,” Smith joked. “Full credit to the lads, we spoke about what we needed to change at halftime and the lads came out and turned the game around. We’ve spoken about that recently; the resilience within the group and that’s relevant today in the fact that it was a team performance. It personified the spirit that’s in the team for sure.”
With his side looking to make their way up the table and force themselves into the semi-final mix, Smith said the team is showing what’s required to achieve that goal. “I’ve said constantly we think we’re a playoff team. To be a playoff team you’ve got to win at home, initially.
“We had a great performance down in Dunedin last week and again we’ve showed today there is a bit of fight and a bit of battle. They’re coming to training, they are working extremely hard and it’s shown on the Saturday. The credit is all due to them for the work and effort they are putting in.”
Mark Jones, scorer of our third equaliser was pleased with his team’s performance and delighted with the backing from an, at times, raucous home crowd. “Second half we came alive and it turned out to be a great game of football. The crowd got behind us and to score in the last couple of minutes… that’s what football’s all about,” said Jones.
“It’s about momentum for us now. We’ve got two wins on the bounce and a big test [to come] against Auckland City. But if we want to be in the play-offs we need to get some sort of result against them and put up a good fight away from home.”