Dragons downed by Bay

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 16/12/2013

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A "flat" Canterbury United could live to regret their defeat to Hawke's Bay United after surrendering their three-game unbeaten streak.

Hawke's Bay won a tight encounter 1-0 at Napier's Park Island ground on Saturday to leapfrog Canterbury into third place on the premiership points table.

Canterbury dropped to fifth and now face a tough assignment against four-time champions and league leaders Waitakere United at English Park next Sunday.

"It was a disappointing result, but we've got to get over it and get on with it," coach Keith Braithwaite said. "When you play the teams around you [on the points table], you've got to take points off them."

The Canterbury Dragons have three consecutive home games, against Waitakere, WaiBop United and Wanderers SC and really need to win them all to bolster their top-four playoffs hopes.

The Waitakere game completes the first round, so there are still eight games to go, but Canterbury's efforts have been patchy despite some mid-round momentum.

They lost to WaiBop United in the opening game, scratched a 2-2 draw with Wanderers (the national under-20 training squad) and again found Park Island to be a graveyard venue to slip two places after Team Wellington beat Wanderers, 3-2.

Braithwaite's team are only one point ahead of sixth-ranked WaiBop United, making every match now a cup final equivalent.

He was at a loss to explain Canterbury's capitulation after a scoreless draw against Oceania champions Auckland City and wins over Southern United and Wellington.

"We were just flat compared to last week [against Wellington]. Nothing happened for us," Braithwaite said. "It looked like it was going to be a goalless draw until we made a defensive error about 15 minutes from fulltime."

The Canterbury defence conceded their first goal in four matches when they failed to clear the danger in the 75th minute. Striker Tom Mosquera flicked on Bay keeper Richard Gillespie's long kick to Tom Biss, who lashed a left-footed shot into the corner of the net.

Federico Marquez looked dangerous for the Dragons in the first half and drew a fine save from Gillespie.

Canterbury keeper Adam Highfield made a flying save to tip a Danny Wilson header over the bar after ex-All White David Mulligan's freekick in the 39th minute.

Right back Ross Haviland had a great chance for Hawke's Bay after the interval, but Highfield beat his shot away.

Biss secured Hawke's Bay's third win five matches to continue their proud record which now stands at just two defeats in their last 13 home games.

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Canterbury were without injured forward Russell Kamo, one of the league's top strikers in the last five seasons. Braithwaite hoped Kamo would be fit to play Waitakere but said his absence was not an excuse for losing in Napier.

NATIONAL LEAGUE RESULTS

Round Six: Hawke's Bay United 1 (Tom Biss) Canterbury United 0. HT: 0-0; Team Wellington 3 (Henry Fa'arodo, Cam Lindsay, Charlie Henry) Wanderers SC 2 (Scott Doney, Elijah Neblett). HT: 2-1; Waitakere United 3 (Sam French 2, Jarrod Young) WaiBop United 0. HT: 1-0.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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