Hawke's Bay United's New Zealand under-23 football squad member Ihaia Delaney is well positioned to judge where the Bay outfit sit on the national scene.
While forward Delaney is only 20 he has had five years with the Ole Football Academy in the capital where he has played for Western Suburbs and he also had a two-year scholarship in Nashville Tennessee.
"Hawke's Bay United are super professional. I'm sure we can push for the Premiership title," Delaney said after his side's 2-0 win against Tasman United in their ISPS Handa Premiership third round fixture at Napier's Bluewater Stadium on Saturday.
He scored the host's first goal and certainly displayed vast improvement on his performance in the first round loss to Auckland City a fortnight earlier.
"I just wanted to gel with the boys in the first round as I didn't expect to be in the first XI so early. I was happy to score my first goal today so that's off my mind now," Delaney said.
"Now I've earned my spot in the first XI I can build on this. As a team it was good to have our first clean sheet of the season and while we still need to be more clinical this was a good positive step," Delaney added.
Another sign of the high level of professionalism within The Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United camp was the fact co-coach Chris Greatholder was quick to point out Delaney should have had three goals.
"The fact he got himself in the right position was pleasing."
"While I'm happy with the win we're still not moving the ball quickly enough to hurt opposition. But our attitude without the ball was good. To have six points out of a possible nine at this stage of the season is pleasing too ... and we're only going to get better," Greatholder said.
Hawke's Bay United applied the early pressure and midfielder Gavin Hoy was unlucky not to convert a free kick in the first minute after he was brought down 25 metres from the goal.
Two minutes later Tasman United missed from a free kick after Hawke's Bay United keeper and captain Ruben Parker handled the ball outside the box.
The hosts opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Delaney scored off deflected attempt by hard working midfielder Dylan Sacramento.
Two minutes later Delaney thought he had a second but was correctly ruled offside by referee Antony Riley. Delaney had another attempt in the 28th minute and when Tasman keeper Pierce Clark saved it tenacious Bay striker Ahinga Selemani was unlucky not to capitalise on the deflection.
Clark produced a superb save of another Delaney attempt in the 31st minute. However all this pressure eventually took its toll when Hawke's Bay United centre back and co-coach Bill Robertson headed in a goal in the 33rd minute to put the hosts 2-0 ahead.
There was no further scoring. However the hosts were doing everything possible in their quest to register a second consecutive win.
Hawke's Bay United finished the first half with eight shots on goal, two more than Tasman United. The visitors certainly didn't lack enterprise either.
Jean Philippe Saiko and Facundo Barbero were dangerous up front and midfielder Hamish Cadigan was a workaholic. Tasman United were unlucky to lose defender Cory Vickers after a head clash in the 34th minute.
All of the Hawke's Bay United players can be proud of their efforts. The cohesion and chatter levels were definitely up a notch from their previous home game a fortnight ago.
Both teams were unable to construct anything of substance in the second spell and both had five shots on goal. Saiko had the first shot on goal in the half when it was 16 minutes old.
Tasman lost Billy Scott when he was red carded 21 minutes into the second half for verbal abuse. Hawke's Bay United lost substitute midfielder Josh Murphy to a red card for a late tackle with two minutes remaining.
Greatholder was unsure whether the card was warranted but intended to view the footage before finalising his opinion.
He was surprised neither Riley or an assistant referee, who was reasonably close to the incident didn't see one of his players get placed in a head lock.
In the curtain raiser the Hawke's Bay United Youth League team lost 2-1 to their Tasman United counterparts. Jonny McNamara scored the hosts' only goal.