The Canterbury United Dragons and Hawkes Bay have played out an enthralling two all draw at English Park on Sunday afternoon in temperatures that hit 30deg plus on the pitch.
Both teams created opportunities, especially in the hectic last 15mins which saw Danny Knight and Ruben Parker kept busy between the sticks.
Goals from Cory Mitchell and Juan Chang in each half meant that the first five goals of the season had been scored by five different players for the Dragons.
The Dragons started better and had an early goal through Mitchell after just four minutes heading home from a corner before Hawkes Bay had barely gotten themselves any possession but that all changed as the half went on when the visitors stepped it up and dominated the home team for long periods.
Dragons stopper, Knight was at his best making two particularly good saves just after the half-hour mark firstly diving to his left and punching away a powerful Dylan Sacramento shot before using catlike reflexes to deny Hawkes Bay again a minute later.
Five minutes before the split and the visitors went close again, this time Luke Tongue was on the spot to make a goal-line clearance to maintain the Dragons lead going into oranges.
George King had an opportunity to double the Dragons lead early in the second half after an excellent burst into the area by Chang but the pass to King wasn’t quite in the right area and the Englishmen couldn’t get the connection that he wanted as the ball went wide.
The visitors did get their equaliser, and a deserved one at that, when speedy forward Ahinga Selemani smashed the ball past Knight who had little chance just after the hour mark.
Ten minutes later Hawkes Bay had the lead through Sho Goto although it was short-lived with the Dragons coming back immediately from the restart to level through the impressive Chang, who finished off good work done by youngster Harris Zeb down the right, an inspired substitution as he had only been on the park for less than two minutes.
Although both teams worked tiredly to find a winner, Knight and Parker were on the top of their games to ensure each of their sides would leave with a point each.
At the end of the day a draw was probably the fairest result although both teams would have deserved the three points as well.
Dragons coach Lee Padmore praised his goalkeeper for an “unbelievable performance” in goal while also pointing to Zeb who he calls “an exciting player with a lot of energy”.
His opposite Chris Greatholder called the result “bittersweet” but was happy coming to Christchurch and taking a point away admitting it was “a hard place to come too”
The Dragons will now take on Team Wellington away next weekend before hosting Auckland City in the Garden City on December 8th in what is a massive fortnight ahead for the red and blacks.
POINTS (After 4 Rounds): Auckland City 10 (+9), Waitakere United 8 (+4), Hawkes Bay United 7 (+2), Eastern Suburbs 7 (0), Southern United 6 (+5), Team Wellington 5 (+3), Canterbury United 5 (0), Tasman United 3 (-7), Hamilton Wanderers 3 (-10), Phoenix Reserves 1 (-6)
Words: Glenn Matthews
Images: Pam Fraser