Tauranga Boys' College needed a late goal to player/coach Danny Warrilow to snatch a 1-all draw with Matamata Swifts in a key Waibop Premier match at Southey Field on Saturday.
The point was the very least Tauranga Boys' deserved after dominating large passages of the match with midfielders Adam Davidson, Oliver Harrop and Lewis Reid in control.
But too often the final pass was not accurate enough and too many crosses ended up in the goalkeeper's arms or were easily taken care of by the giant Matamata centre backs.
Tauranga Boys' hit the post twice, the best effort being a 20m scorcher from Stan Rust early in the first half. Later in the game a smart cross from Rust was expertly flicked on by Lewis Reid only for the upright to again get in the way.
Matamata made the occasional break out of their own half but mostly looked content to sit back and let Tauranga Boys' bring the ball to them. From turnover possession in midfield, Matamata broke down the right touchline through Jamie Baxter who chopped back infield and sent a speculative cross-come-shot into the Tauranga penalty area that managed to find its way into the back of the net for the opening goal.
It looked like Matamata might hang on to take the three points but the superior fitness of the younger students showed through strongly in the end with Warrilow's equaliser well deserved.
He was pleased to have made such a decisive contribution off the bench with key players unavailable.
"I just had to gamble on a ball into the box. You have to be there to get it in and I was able to finish it off," Warrilow said.
"At this time of the year when the boys are playing two different times a week, it is good if we can give them a rest on Saturday and make sure they are fresh for those school games which is our priority."
Tauranga Boys' co-coaches Neil Howard and Alex Bryant were satisfied with how the boys stuck to their task against a much more experienced and bigger side.
"Matamata probably defended the last line quite well, especially in the air which was a big part of today's game that was a bit agricultural at times. We did hit the post and forced a couple of saves and the equaliser was probably deserved," Bryant said.
Howard was pleased with how his team dug deep for the equaliser and how composed the less experienced players were, particularly defender Campbell Browne.
"I think when we go away to the bigger pitches we do a bit better and it is awkward here with the sun. I thought we defended well in the first half and we wanted to get to the 60-minute mark and then use our fitness against other teams.
"I was really pleased how we came back. It was a really scrappy goal and a difficult situation for our goalie. We have two or three guys out injured as well so we have to be happy with how we are trucking."
Tauranga Boys' have two crucial home games this week. They face Hillcrest High School in a national qualifier today at 3pm and Westlake Boys' in a traditional exchange on Wednesday at 10am.