Soccer: Bay proud of dramatic draw

By Anendra Singh

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On the way out a soccer stalwart, lugging a pile driver but grinning, said: "Those jokers are taking acting lessons in Auckland, aren't they?"

The rhetorical question followed a come-from-behind 1-1 draw for Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United against Auckland City in Napier yesterday when the game deteriorated to an ugly phase not long after the hosts equalised.

The No2-ranked visitors and the No3-ranked hosts started tentatively in the first half but gave probably the biggest crowd seen at Bluewater Stadium in an ASB Premiership soccer match something to talk about, if not rave.

For Bay coach Chris Greatholder, who quietly celebrated graduating with premiership qualifications, it was a timely result to reflect on how far he had brought the franchise team to a level where they can trade punches toe to toe with the metropolitan big boys.

If anything, the stalemate, on the heels of a similar result in Kiwitea St on November 18, is a testimony to not only making a historic maiden play-off berth this summer but also knocking the favourites off their perch.

Was it a case of Hollywood or, as Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx believes, simply two sides playing contrasting styles of the beautiful game.

Greatholder thought sharing the points was a fair result but Tribulietx didn't.

"Yes, all in all, in reflection, I think it's a fair result because if it had gone another five minutes we would have gone on to nick it," Greatholder said.

He was a little disappointed the Bay didn't win it because they finished stronger at the end, although they had played better this summer.

Greatholder said while his troops didn't have a crack at the City goalmouth until the 57th minute, when goalkeeper Tamati Williams snaffled striker Jarrod Smith's mistimed header, he emphasised Bay keeper Richard Gillespie didn't make a save in the entire game.

Auckland broke the deadlock in the 55th minute when centre-mid Pedro Cecilia casually pushed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner for a 1-0 lead after a rash of passes reduced the Bay defenders to spectators and caught Gillespie on the hop in the 18m box.

He felt it was heading for a dour scoreless affair for a while because of the possession-based tone but, maybe, the Bay didn't really find their rhythm.

Overall, though, two draws were a reflection on how far they had come as a franchise and team not just holding the O-League campaigners to draws but also in keeping afloat in the business end of the premiership ladder.

With centreback/captain Bill Robertson serving a match suspension,a physical Cole Peverley stepped up for a lion's share of the game although Auckland started infiltrating the danger zone 10 minutes before halftime with some regularity.

Not shy to go back to All White defender Ivan Vicelich to dictate from the right flank, the visitors should have scored in the 42nd minute but Gillespie made a great one-on-one to deny Emiliano Tade a goal after the striker snuck into the 18m unchallenged following a deft pass from leftback Takuyu Iwata.

With two minutes added to the first spell, Tade made a surging run into the box but Manel Exposito tried to make flower arrangements in the 18m box before Aaron Jones negated any threat.

It was drama during the halftime break when fans discovered referee John Rowbury had retired hurt, due to the clash with robust midfielder Stephen Hindmarch midway through the first spell that left him on the seat of his pants.

Bay's Gareth Sheehan, the ref's No1 assistant, assumed control but came under immense pressure from not only the players but also irate spectators.

Two minutes into the second half, leftback Fergus Neil ran his flank to cross to the near upright but midfielder Stephen Hoyle arrived a fraction too late.

Greatholder injected Sean Lovemore for some pace in the 61st minute on the right wing, pulling off Harley Rodeka, but it begged the question if the speedy striker should have started the game for that sort of impetus.

In the 69th minute, Smith equalised from a header after midfielder Conor Tinnion's floater found him in the 18m box.

Two minutes later Lucas could have put the Bay ahead but drove the ball into orbit.

The game deteriorated not long after as players from both sides, sensing Sheehan's debut in the premiership, started flirting with his patience.

Greatholder urged Hindmarch to focus on the game.

Tempers flared again in the 75th minute, when Tinnion picked up a yellow card for fouling speedy right winger David Browne as some fans accused Browne of diving and called on referee Sheehan to get off the field.

Two minutes later Hoyle picked up a yellow card for shouldering Vicelich from behind in an aerial battle.

In the 80th minute, City claimed their first cornerkick but came up with nothing despite a pin-ball moment that had silenced the partisan fans.

Peverley picked up a yellow following a senseless tackle on Tade to take Bay's total to six cards from the eight in the match.

He and Tinnion will miss the away game against Otago United this Sunday but no one will lose much sleep over that although the Bay are crucially three points away from making play-off berth.

Sympathising with Sheehan, Greatholder said "it's a big welcome for him at this level".

"You make a foul and get a yellow card these days. It's not like the good old days when you actually earned it."

Tribulietx said while the game was even for most of the time, it was disappointing Auckland couldn't hold their 1-0 lead.

"Hawke's Bay play the game the way they play and they get away with it so that's working for them," the man from Barcelona said, confident they know what to do to beat them if they meet in the play-offs again.

"They defend well. They are strong players who challenge the ball anywhere and any how.

"We try to play a different style so I think you probably saw a clash of different styles here today," Tribulietx said, adding his troops intended to learn from it.

He didn't mince words when asked if Sheehan had a handle on the match.

"The referee was a fourth official, actually, ... so I don't know if he's got experience at this level or not. There were quite a few controversial situations in there but what can we do, that's football."

He brushed aside suggestions his players needed to toughen up, saying the number of chances Auckland created to score was proof which style of play was better when compared with the Bay's "scrambling' tactics.

In the youth game, Bay United lost 3-2 with Josh Stewart and Angus Kilkolly finding the net.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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