Auckland 1 HB Utd 1
You expect teams to be cock-a-hoop when they talk about turning their home grounds into fortresses for visiting sides.
But when oppositions start taking a shine to playing on turfs on the road, it speaks volumes of their mental fortitude.
If I were coach Ramon Tribulietx and the Auckland City soccer team, a degree of consternation would start creeping into the mindset for the rest of the summer in the ASB Premiership, after Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United drew 1-1 at Kiwitea Street, Auckland, yesterday.
While another O-League team, Waitakere United, leapfrogged to the top rung of the premiership table from the third spot, the Bay and Auckland's stalemate was befitting a top-of-the-table clash before yesterday's results.
In fact, Bay United coach Chris Greatholder said the Magpies at one stage of the game were backing themselves for a victory after striker Sean Lovemore zipped past City goalkeeper Tamati Williams to slot the ball into an empty net in the 32nd minute and draw first blood.
"We've lost all our games here so we'll take that, no doubt. It's definitely a bonus point," a delighted but composed Greatholder summed up just before his men, some clutching ice packs, boarded the bus for a memorable ride back to the Bay.
"We even had a couple of chances to score again but, on the balance, the result is a fair score."
A despondent Auckland defender, Ivan Vicelich, must have looked like his All Whites teammates in the no-show for a breakfast with expatriate Kiwi kids in Shanghai when Lovemore showed him a clean pair of heels to score, if the premiership website is anything to go by.
For ex-Waitakere player Lovemore, the goal puts him in pole position for the golden boot, with Youngheart Manawatu's Thomas Masquera left behind on four.
History books and previous records counted for nothing as the Bay relished playing on a ground previous franchise sides dreaded travelling to.
The Bay contingent fed off the singing and chanting at Kiwitea Street. For someone who delighted in playing there, Greatholder said it was often quite easy for opposition players to motivate themselves in the electric atmosphere.
While the Bill Robertson-captained Bay were bubbling with confidence, Greatholder said they were mindful the city slickers were a good outfit and switching off was not an option.
Unfortunately the visitors did have a memory lapse in the 53rd minute when Alex Feneridis popped in the equaliser past Bay United goalkeeper Richard Gillespie after a deft Taku Iwata cut back a pass.
"It was a bit of a sloppy goal to concede but, to be fair, they [Auckland City] were knocking on the door a few times," Greatholder said, adding that Gillespie only had to make one other crucial save - a low dive to the left - in the first 15 to 20 minutes when the Aucklanders threw the kitchen sink at them.
"I'm not sure if they were off with the boot or what and at other times we got our bodies in the way," he said, adding that while he was no statistician he could safely say his men fired more volleys on target than Auckland City.
Assistant coach and former All White Perry Cotton had emphasised the need for the underdogs to get in the faces of the Aucklanders and show them no respect - and that's what Robertson's troops did.
The only fly in the ointment for the visitors was referee Mark Hester flashing a red card at ex-Otago United right winger Harley Rodeka for a second yellow-card offence three minutes into added time. He had collected his first one in the 50th minute.
"It was nonsense and a minute before fulltime so the referee could have used a more sensible approach," Greatholder said. "It was a clumsy and late tackle. I feel for Harkey and it's a bit of a sour note to end the game but, overall, it's been a good day for us."
The Bay players' tails were up and that oozing confidence will be simmered until they host Otago United here on Sunday at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, Napier.
Tribulietx, who made a flurry of substitutions, lamented another off day for his strikers.
"We're a little [disappointed] because we deserve a lot more from the game," the Spaniard from Barcelona said.
"We completely dominated but they were composed out of possession and their defence was good, but that's football because at the end of the day you have to put away your chances."
He said Lovemore's goal came on the counterattack after his men coughed up possession as the speedy Aucklander latched on to a ball put behind the defence.
Tribulietx said in his estimate Auckland City created numerous chances and had about 25 shots at goal.
"Some of them were from the edge of the box or inside it."
He said they would put behind yesterday's disappointment to work harder on polishing their finishing touches to bounce back this weekend.
It doesn't get any easier for the Auckland side, who will play a derby against Waitakere United.