Team Taranaki made hard work of it but kept their spot at the top of the table with a 3-2 win over Havelock North at Pukekura Park yesterday afternoon.
Leading 2-0 at halftime after a brace of well taken goals by player of the match Patrick Hay, Team Taranaki looked on track for a comfortable victory.
But the fizz went out of their play and in that time the Hawke's Bay side fired in two goals, both from the boot of forward Bjorn Christensen.
Anything other than a win would have undone all the good work this season and seriously dented Team Taranaki's chances of winning the Federation League.
But a free-kick from 25m out deflected off a Team Taranaki player and was headed in by Pete Kelbrick, making it 3-2.
Havelock North almost sneaked a leveller five minutes from fulltime and it took a brilliant save by Nick Walker in goal to keep out the close range shot.
The clinical finishing early in the game by teenage striker Hay and his combination with Domenico Squatriti was a feature of the game. Squatriti was responsible for putting Hay through for both his goals.
New signing Jonathan Fletcher impressed in the short time he was on the field in his cameo performance. Brought on with 15 minutes to go, the midfielder hit good quality balls that created two or three chances. He should play a big part in the side's plans in the run to the end of the season.
Team Taranaki will have wanted to win by more than one goal and will be annoyed at not having converted the numerous good chances they created in the last 10 minutes.
Coach Ian McGrath admitted complacency had crept in during the 20-minute spell after halftime.
"We never really seemed to kick on from the advantages we created and that was a disappointment," McGrath said. "But our aim was to pick up three points and we've done that.
"We deserved to win today purely because we didn't give up and [it] showed we've got the character to nut out a win."
Team Taranaki have a four-point lead over closest rival Wanganui Athletic, who scored a 5-0 win over Palmerston North Marist on Saturday.
Team Taranaki are on the road this weekend to take on third- placed North End, of Palmerston North.
- Taranaki Daily News
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