Westside Strikers survived a late comeback from Gisborne in their state league 5 top of the table clash on Saturday, coughing up three late goals in a tense draw.
While the Strikers maintained their unbeaten record for the season, they looked like taking the full points for much of the game as they controlled large portions of possession and were clinically efficient up front.
Strikers president Sam Raniolo said it was dissapointing to concede three times in a match, after only letting through four goals in the 12 games of the season previously.
“We were pretty disappointed to be 3-0 with 15 minutes or so to go and not take the full points,” Raniolo said.
“We were pretty fired up with a top of the table game, and we knew it was going to be a tough game so we started well and controlled most of the game and stopped them from having a shot so that was pleasing. A shame we let ourselves down at the end of the game.”
Westside started the game like a team yet to drop a game, giving themselves early opportunities to score before Jordan Borg was able to head home the opener on the far post from a corner in the ninth minute.
Both teams had periods of dominance through the rest of the opening half, but neither side was able to find the back of the net as the home side took their lead into the break.
Westside again started well in the second half, with Borg getting his second in the 50th minute after a defensive error from Gisborne, and seemingly sealing the win with a 68th minute strike to complete his hat-trick.
From there the game began to turn in Gisborne’s favour, with some substitutions, tactical shifts, and an attacking mindset reaping rewards.
Jake McIntyre opened the scoring for the visitors after some good build-up play in the 78th minute, and soon after it was 3-2 as Charles Eastwood got on the scoresheet.
Gisborne closed down the space for the Strikers defenders in the closing stages, and were able to force some mistakes, and when McIntyre bagged his second in the 89th minute it was the visitors who looked the better side.
Raniolo said his side was keeping perspective despite the result.
“Look we’re still on top, still five points ahead of Gisborne, and still undefeated so that’s a positive for us,” he said.
“It would have been nice to be eight points ahead, but it’s still in our hands for the championship.
“It’s going to be a hard year, and we know it will be very hard to go a whole year undefeated, so the boys just have to keep going, forget about this one and get ourselves up for the next one.”
Elsewhere, Melton Phoenix missed a chance to grab a win as they conceded a late penalty in their clash with West Point and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.