Any time when the importance of keeping a clean sheet is emphasised before a kick off, there are bound to be casualties.

Today was no exception as Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United and Tasman United fought to a 2-2 stalemate in what, at times, saw blood spilled at Bluewater Stadium during the ISPS Handa Premiership game at home in Napier.

The Brett Angell-coached Bay United came back from 1-0 down in the first half at sun-baked Park Island to not only equalise but also take the lead in the televised dead rubber to squander three points, as both sides were playing for pride after missing out on the playoffs.

However, it was the last appraisal in the hosts' final home match in how adept they should be in putting up the shutters but no prizes for guessing Angell wouldn't have been amused after they scored two goals through stand-in captain Sam Mason-Smith but conceded just as many, including the coach killer, in two minutes of added time before the final whistle.

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Mason-Smith, who today fended off Callum McCowatt, of Eastern Suburbs, and Garbhan Coughland, of Southern United, after they had closed in on his total of 14 before the kick off, lamented the frustration of a leaky defence.

"If we keep a clean sheet we win the game [because], you know, we're always going to score goals," said the 27-year-old Englishman who catches a flight to Melbourne, Australia, to ply his trade for the Preston Lions in the second-tier State League One.

"There's talk of a foul on the keeper and all those sorts of things [but] regardless we should have beaten this side so it's disappointing to finish the way it has," he said.

Bay United have now conceded a mind-boggling 50 goals, the worst record in the national summer league this season, if not previous ones, and seven more than last-placed Wellington Phoenix Reserves.


From the spectators' perspective, Mason-Smith said there were four goals for entertainment value regardless of the result.

"We put on an exciting game for them but, obviously, as players we want to see three points and I'm sure the fans do, too, so it was disappointing to not finish with at least a win at home," he said, something that would be, no doubt, addressed next summer.

The teams showed intent but it was Tasman's Liam MacDevitt who stunned the home fans when he drew first blood in the 33rd minute. The striker worked the ball up the left flank, cut it back inside right back Cameron Lindsay before chipping it past Bay goalkeeper Mackenzie Waite on the far post with the smoothness of a card-trick performer.

Three minutes later Lindsay had a golden chance to make amends but Tasman glove man Nick Stanton was equal to the occasion, putting his body on the line to cradle the ball between his legs in the 18m box.

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It was French import Maxime Oliveri's turn a minute later to rattle the visitors but veteran Paul Ifill failed to convert the well-executed curler from the right flank to the far post for a goal from an acute angle.

Striker Mason-Smith could have changed the tone of Angell's halftime pep talk after a one-on-one went begging with Stanton from 5m in front of the goalmouth in the 43rd minute.

But MacDevitt, who was a thorn in the defenders' backside for the most part of the game, came close to extending the lead in the three minutes of added time in the first spell before he skewed the ball, after surging into the 18m box on a counterattack from Tasman.

Interestingly, referee Anthony Riley had handed out yellow cards to Bay's Karan Mandair, Gavin Hoy and Jorge Akers before halftime while Jake Williams picked one up for Tasman.

The physicality stake hit a crescendo with all the talk about keeping clean sheets, as this Tasman United player shows in Napier today. Photo/Paul taylor
The physicality stake hit a crescendo with all the talk about keeping clean sheets, as this Tasman United player shows in Napier today. Photo/Paul taylor

Mason-Smith said agreed the physicality stakes had been raised with some aggressive challenges.

"You sort of expect that and we're not strangers to that because when teams come here and you try to hold up for a win you get physical so it was a well-contested game and it was pretty fair."

Mandair missed a header near the far post in the 53rd minute but the 1-1 equaliser was only four minutes in the making.

Mason-Smith, wearing the captain's armband for injured Birhanu Taye, found the net after an Ifill curler on the left flank found Hoy who had deftly turned back with a header from the right flank inside the 18m box for the Englishman to drill from point-blank range.

Oliveri came within a ball width of nudging Bay United ahead in the 67th minute after Mason-Smith became provider with a cut back from inside the 18m box.

Ifill could have done that and came close to it with a surging run after a long ball from deep inside the Bay half but Tasman defender Corey Larsen clung to him like a cheap suit long enough to put him off his finishing touch in the 78th minute.

Hawke's Bay United French import Maxime Oliveri had a impressive stint today after losing a little focus against Waitakere United in the previous round. Photo/Paul Taylor
Hawke's Bay United French import Maxime Oliveri had a impressive stint today after losing a little focus against Waitakere United in the previous round. Photo/Paul Taylor

The 2-1 lead came in the 87th minute after Mason-Smith latched on to a bread-and-butter cross from Oliveri to plant the ball in the right-hand upright corner to take his goal tally to 16 for the season.

But the pesky visitors from the top of South Island weren't done.

They found the 2-2 equaliser in two minutes of the four-minute referee's added time. It came from an Ifill mistake on the halfway mark near the wooden stand end.

Tasman worked the ball down the right flank, MacDevitt had Waite in sixes and sevens to parry the ball away from the goalmouth but Tasman captain and defender Fox Slotemaker deposited the rebound into the empty net to share a point each way with a despondent Bay United.

"When you score so late it's about staying solid and not conceding the next shot but, unfortunately today, we didn't quite to do that to stay solid enough to shut up shop to take the game over for the three points," said Mason-Smith.

He said on a personal note he was trying to create a buffer in the golden-boot race with two more round-robin games remaining on the road against Southern United and Nix Reserves.

"I'm two goals ahead and on 16 now but I'm not sure if that's enough ... but I'll be surprised if I manage to win the golden boot at the end but, obviously, I'm hoping to so we'll see what they [McCowatt and Coughland] can do."

A delighted Mason-Smith said if someone had offered him 16 goals before the season kicked off last October he would have taken it compared with his previous best of 11.

He was turning his attention to Melbourne where they kick off late this month but intended to return to help Bay United next season.

Hawke's Bay United midfielder Maxime Oliveri grabs his head in agony after this challenge from Tasman United at Park Island, Napier, today. Photo/Paul Taylor
Hawke's Bay United midfielder Maxime Oliveri grabs his head in agony after this challenge from Tasman United at Park Island, Napier, today. Photo/Paul Taylor