The Canterbury United Dragons have finished 2019 with a valuable win, moving within touching distance of the Top Four with a 2-0 victory against Tasman United on Friday night.
Goals from George King after 72 minutes and Aaron Clapham three minutes later sealed the points for the home team at English Park.
It was a game, that for the most part, failed to excite the crowd that turned out to support the Dragons but at the end of the day they got the result that they, the team and Dragons management craved with three vital points.
It was a hard game to get into with limited opportunities for either side and as the hour mark ticked by you could feel the tension around the crowd, something even Dragons coach, Lee Padmore, alluded to post-match.
“We expected Tasman to sit a little deeper and cause us problems on the break. When people were getting a bit edgy around that 50 or 60-minute mark we knew it was going to come, we just had to be patient and trust what we were doing” Padmore said.
The first goal was quality though and well worth waiting for. Haris Zeb was picked out after a long ball from the back caught him on the right-hand side of the park. He held the ball up before managing to pick out King just inside the 12-yard box before volleying home into the left corner, Tasman keeper Pierce Clark picking to dive the other way.
The second was simply cool, calm and collected from Clapham who latched onto a header that was knocked back by a Tasman defender. Clapham cut back inside Pierce before tapping into an open net setting the crowd alight. It was the journeyman’s second goal since returning to his hometown club from a stint in Wellington.
The always honest Padmore admitting that it was all about a process for this group this season and Top 4 would be a fantastic result but he wasn’t thinking that far ahead. “We are in a transition year, more than most of the regions. We have the biggest restructure of any team. We just have to trust what we are doing is what we believe in”
The gaffer was happy with where his team were at the break. “I always said if we were in touch at Christmas we would be there or thereabouts at the end of it. We are in touch at Christmas so hopefully we will be there or thereabouts at the end of it” he said with a smile.
Tasman coach Jess Ibrom was happy with his team’s performance but paid tribute to his opposition. “I can’t be too critical of our performance to be honest except for a couple of lapses in concentration. We had a solid game plan. We knew that it would be very tough coming here. Canterbury United are a very good National League team, have been for several years”
The Dragons now sit equal with Eastern Suburbs on 9 points although the red-and-blacks have played an extra game to most other teams. With only three points separating fourth and last place the competition is shaping to be one of the closest in years.
Canterbury will next host bottom-placed Hamilton Wanderers on Sunday January 12th when the season resumes for the Dragons.
DRAGONS 2 (King 72, Clapham 75) Tasman United 0. HT 0-0
WORDS: Glenn Matthews