Team Taranaki's mini form slump was arrested on Saturday as they managed a 1-1 draw against Red Sox at Palmerston North.
While they can no longer win the Western Premiership, there is a chance they could finish third if they can beat second-placed Wanganui City at home this Sunday and Red Sox do not collect any more points.
The strength of Team Taranaki this season has been their ability to score goals - 52 in all, 12 more than first-placed Palmerston North Marist.
Team Taranaki started well and were again the better team for the first 20 minutes of the first half.
Looking comfortable in defence and playing most of their football in the opposition half, it was an encouraging phase of play that saw them retain possession and look the more threatening team on attack.
The front three of Vinnie Sharp, Hayden Murray and Domenico Squatriti caused Red Sox trouble in defence and forced goalkeeper Ben Wilkes to make a number of saves to deny the visitors an opening goal.
A hamstring injury to centre back Cam Brownlie on the 20-minute mark resulted in an enforced change, with Tony Young reverting back to defence, and the only available substitute Shaun Bracegirdle joining the game in midfield.
Without a goal in the first half, the match meandered along until the final quarter.
A momentary lapse in the 65th minute on the halfway line saw the normally dependable Rodrigues caught in possession, which launched a quick counter- attacking move that led to the opening goal. A raking 40-yard cross-field ball from right to left released the Red Sox winger and in a sweeping move he cut the ball across the face of goal for Jerom Tuck to stab the ball home from close range at the far post.
The goal seemed to spark the game into life, in what had been a stalemate up to that point, both sides playing reasonably well but failing to capitalise on that scoring moment.
The response from Team Taranaki was immediate and a neat move involving quick passing combinations sliced Red Sox wide open and set Squatriti free from 25 yards out. Squatriti was able to round the goalkeeper and avoid a despairing challenge, but ran out of room to squeeze the ball home and the moment was lost.
Team Taranaki did equalise five minutes later after Murray got on the end of another incisive through ball from a quick combination of passes to round the oncoming goalkeeper and make no mistake with his finish.
'We were starting to open them up with some slick combination play in the final third and the goal was a beauty," Team Taranaki coach Ian McGrath said. "Two short passes, followed by a third that released Hayden into the penalty area and he did the rest. It was a superbly worked goal."
In other results, North End defeated Wanganui Athletic 4-1, Feilding beat Palmerston North Boys' High School 3-1, while Palmerston North Marist beat Wanganui City 1-0.
- Taranaki Daily News
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