ANENDRA SINGH
Toby Doyle was limping.
His battered and bruised body could only take so much.
The Taradale High School pupil had played for his school in the New Zealand Secondary Schools competition for the past two days and last night he had slipped on his gloves between the sticks for his Taradale premier men's team to frustrate Cru Bar Maycenvale United in the Homeworx Knockout Cup semifinal.
But the teenager bit his bottom lip and soldiered on in his side's 5-2 extra-time defeat under floodlights on an uncharacteristically firm Petane field devoid of cross winds.
It was a cruel result for Warren Gilbertson's men who had fought valiantly to a 1-nil lead at the breather and a 2-1 margin until the final three minutes when Vale substitute Baljit Singh scored the equaliser amid vociferous appeals from Dale defenders for a hand ball.
Referee Nick Haakman pointed to the centre circle and soon after 30 minutes was added to the 90-minute encounter.
Dale players would have walked off the pitch with their heads held high considering a virile Vale bench had to step in to show the red and blacks a little more respect then the starting line-up.
"The difference was when our left back, Graeme Jones, injured his ankle early in the game and we had our substitute goalkeeper, Lucain MacDonald, come in as a replacement in the right-back position," Dale skipper Gilbertson lamented.
It was the injection of Vale midfielders Chris Greatholder and Keegan Bright and striker Baljit Singh that gave their engine room more grunt.
Dale striker Matt McKinney left Vale keeper Kyle Baxter motionless with a penalty kick after defender Brent Flynn hacked down the striker inside the 18m box in the 37th minute.
But it was the Dion Adams-Brendon Adema magic that fired in the equaliser in the 61st minute from a freekick on the left flank after Adema towered above Doyle to nod the ball into the net to make it 1-all.
Two minutes later Dale midfielder Jeff Hart tapped in a goal after Baxter fumbled a 40m freekick and from the ensuing goalmouth melee Vale defenders failed to clear.
Sensing resistance, Vale coach Grant Hastings injected Greatholder and Singh with great effect.
Dale's Dylan Williams, like some of his fellow attackers, got too cute in taking too many touches in the striking zone.
Doyle was at the end of a late charge from Singh, who copped a yellow card, but the pressure yielded goals to an Adams-Adema free-kick replay. Bright made it 4-2 and Scott McDonald added another as Robbie Bower provided the impetus for the final against Napier City Rovers in possibly another night game.