GLORY 3 KINGZ 1
The Football Kingz lost yet another match today, going down 3-1 to Perth Glory in Auckland, but showed that perhaps all was not lost.
Even before a ball was kicked on a waterlogged Ericsson Stadium, the Kingz were up against it when goalkeeper Michael Utting limped out of the warm up and on to crutches.
Ross Nicholson took his place in goal and turned in 90 accomplished minutes. But the Kingz were left without cover until Kaz Townsend arrived at halftime.
The first 45 minutes produced the Kingz' best football of the season and the best chance for the opening goal of the game. Sadly, they did not go on with it.
Midfielder Mark Burton's long-awaited return showed that if fit and enthusiastic their former player of the year could be the catalyst they have desperately been searching for.
Until his lack of match fitness caught up with him, Burton gave a decent hint of his undoubted ability.
Alongside him in midfield captain Chris Jackson responded well to turn in his best effort.
Given that confidence boost, the Kingz, while obviously lacking the talent of their opponents, showed they were capable of something better than early results have suggested
Harry Ngata had an early chance when the Perth defence were caught out, and a later one when Jackson and Brad Scott combined to present him with an opportunity in front of goal which he pushed wide and left him throwing his hands up in despair.
On defence, the Kingz, well-led by John Tambouras and with support from Espen Schjerven, Jason Rowley and Mauro Donoso, kept the Perth attack of Damian Mori, Tom Pondeljak and the irrepressible Bobby Despotovski in check for the first 45 minutes.
After the break the Perth team, struggling to get in sync with their body clocks -- the game kicked off at 7.15am Perth time -- picked it up a gear.
They needed only three minutes to unlock the Kingz' defence when Matt Horsley showed good control before finding Despotovski, who scored.
Three minutes later only a desperate Rowley clearance kept the visitors out for what could have been a second.
A mistake on halfway when Ngata was left stranded opened the gates for Pondeljak, Horsley and Despotovski to set up Pondeljak who hit home on the run for 2-0.
Ngata gave the Kingz some hope in the 64th minute when he headed home a cross from substitute Jeff Campbell, the first goal the visitors had conceded in their three games this season.
Three minutes later it was all over when Pondeljak provided the build-up and Mori the finish for 3-1.
"I thought in the first half we did well," Kingz coach Ken Dugdale said.
"There was a lot of endeavour. In the main they played as well as they can to instructions.
"Even though we have lost, I feel that these games against Newcastle, Parramatta and Perth, which in many ways have been our pre-season, have given us a good lead in to the rest of the programme. It can only get easier."
Perth Glory 3 (Bobby Despotovska 48, Tom Pondeljak 57, Damian Mori 67)
Football Kingz 1 (Harry Ngata 63).
GLORY 3 KINGZ 1