Promising Hawke's Bay United striker Jack Parker's mixed emotions were predictable after the final whistle blew on their ISPS Handa Premiership opener last night.
"It felt pretty good," replied the 18-year-old Hastings Boys' High School Year 13 student when quizzed about his goal with his first touch of the ball in Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United's 3-2 loss to Auckland City at Napier's Bluewater Stadium.
"But I'm disappointed we didn't get a draw as that would have been a fair result. Auckland's goal just before halftime killed us," Parker explained.
"But there are plenty of positives going forward. Auckland City are one of the best teams in the country and we went toe to toe with them," he said.
He replaced another of United's first-season players, Ihaia Delaney, in the 63rd minute and scored the final goal of the game four minutes later. He admitted it has been a challenge mixing his football commitments with his level 3 exams swot.
"I don't study too much as football is my main focus," Parker, who is heading to Victoria University in Wellington next year, said.
Hawke's Bay United co-coach Chris Greatholder also agreed a draw would have been a fair result.
"Auckland City would not have argued with a draw. That performance would have beat most other sides in the Premiership," Greatholder said.
He gave Parker's debut the thumbs-up and pointed out he was the first Hawke's Bay player for many seasons to be named in the tournament team after the annual Napier City Rovers Labour Weekend under-19 tournament finished. Greatholder agreed Parker has the potential to be as dominant in the Premiership in future as he has been for his school and team and Havelock North in the Federation.
While Parker will complete the season with Hawke's Bay United when at university Greatholder hopes he remains with the side for future seasons too.
"We lose plenty of players off the Regional New Zealand conveyor belt but we don't want to lose Jack."
Greatholder said improving their finishing and decision making in the final third will be the biggest work on for his troops before next Sunday's away game against Wellington Phoenix Reserves. The hosts finished the game, which was played in ideal conditions, with 18 shots on goal, eight more than Auckland City.
Outstanding Auckland City striker Myer Bevan scored the first of his three goals in the 15th minute off a clever assist from Jordan Vale. Five minutes later Bevan had too much pace and skill for the Hawke's Bay United defence and the visitors led 2-0.
Canadian forward Gavin Hoy kept the hosts in the hunt when he slotted a free kick from 20 metres out into the net in the 33rd minute. Just before referee Ben O'Connell blew the final whistle Bevan completed his hat trick after a fast paced counter attack from Auckland City.
The fact Hawke's Bay United kept their visitors scoreless in the second half is one of the many positives they can take into the remainder of their campaign. As Greatholder said the squad has enough ammunition to do some damage once they improve their finishing and decision making in the final third.
Midfielder Dylan Sacramento was a workaholic on defence and created plenty of opportunities for his forwards on the counter attack. Fellow midfielder Josh Signey, who is a product of the Manchester United age group system, was tireless on and off the ball.
American striker Ahinga Selemani boasts the necessary pace and physicality to become a threat once he becomes more familiar with his support players. Co-coach and centre back Bill Robertson was a rock on defence particularly in the second half.
Along with Bevan and Vale, Logan Rogerson, was always a threat on attack for Auckland City. Midfielder Yousif Ali's ability to create opportunities was also admirable.
Like Hawke's Bay United, Wellington Phoenix Reserves, will be desperate for a win next weekend after losing their first round match 3-1 to Waitakere United.
Hawke's Bay United's next home game will be against Tasman United on November 16 from 4pm.