Soccer: Knights earning some credibility

By Michael Brown

Knights 0 Sydney 0

After the turmoil of last season, 'undefeated' and 'Knights' are two words most people would not have expected to have heard used together.

But the times, they are a changing. It would be unwise to get carried away, given it's only the Pre-Season Cup, but securing a third draw in as many weeks, including one against the A-League champions, goes some way to gaining what the Knights have so far failed to achieve - credibility.

A-League sides across the Tasman will be taking note and the fact more than 3000 turned up at North Harbour Stadium yesterday afternoon, while club football was in full swing, would suggest people in this country might also be starting to take more than a passing interest.

There were queues to get into the ground, club merchandise was being sold, the players were clapped off the park and the Bloc 5 fans chanted as if they truly meant it.

For long periods, the Knights looked the better side and striker Sean Devine could have nicked it with virtually the last kick of the game but his snap shot was well saved.

While they created a handful of good scoring chances and impressive Portuguese striker Dani Rodrigues hit the post in the fourth minute, the most noticeable aspect of the Knights' play was that they were an extremely difficult side to break down.

They often had as many as 10 players behind the ball to frustrate a Sydney side that, although without Dwight Yorke, was littered with many who won last season's final.

Sydney finished the strongest - Alex Brosque hit the post and David Carney saw his late shot well saved - but it would have been unfair had they taken all the points.

Perhaps the greatest compliment to the home side was the fact new Sydney boss Terry Butcher let fly with a vocal assault in the changing rooms afterwards that nearly matched one of the brutal tackles he became famous for as an England and Ipswich player.

"The New Zealand Knights made it very, very difficult for us," Butcher admitted. "There's a lot of honesty in the team and Paul's got them working hard. They could have scored in the first minute and again in the last. I think a draw was a fair result."

The draw meant Sydney are safely through to the Cup semifinals with one round remaining, while the Knights can still advance with a positive result in Adelaide on Friday night.

"Back across the Tasman, I know coaches recognise us as a good team and the word is out that we're not a pushover," Knights manager Paul Nevin declared. "I like the fact we respect everyone we come up against but there is absolutely no fear."

The fact Nevin and all but six players weren't involved in last year's debacle makes this easier to achieve.

It will be interesting to learn the identity of Nevin's final two signings but it's all about baby steps at this stage and so far the baby is finding its feet encouragingly.

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