Experienced Hawke's Bay United marksman Paul Ifill found the back of the net in the 82nd minute to lead Hawke's Bay to a 2-1 win over Southern United in the ASB Premiership at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Sunday.
Southern United found themselves in a familiar position of being behind at halftime when Sam Mason-Smith had given the visitors the lead late in the first half, as goalkeeper Tom Batty could only parry a corner into the path of the Hawke’s Bay striker who duly responded by finding the back of the net.
Southern United responded by coming out of the sheds with much more intent than they had shown against WaiBOP in their previous start.
After a couple of opportunities for both sides, Southern United substitute Lewis Jackson, who has come up from the ASB Youth League side, fired a goal home in the 75th minute after some great lead up play by Jack Caunter and Harley Rodeka.
Heading into the final 10 minutes locked at 1-1, Hawke's Bay turned to their most experienced player in Ifill who managed to slot the ball past Batty after a great ball from Fabien Kurimata.
But the drama wasn’t over at Forsyth Barr Stadium with Hawke’s Bay captain Fin Milne bringing Sam French down in the box resulting in a red card and a penalty.
Rodeka couldn’t convert though as Hawke’s Bay goalkeeper Josh Hill saved low to his right and the visitors held on to their 2-1 lead until the final whistle.
Hawke’s Bay United coach Brett Angell said while it was ultimately job done in Dunedin, their performance wasn’t as polished as they could have been.
"I thought at times we made it a little bit more difficult but full credit to Southern, they kept battling and kept going," Angell said.
"Ideally we wanted to finish the game off quite early, I think there were opportunities for us but unfortunately we didn’t take them. We came here for three points, it may not have been as smooth as we’d have liked it to be, credit to Southern for that, but we’ve come away with the points and we move on and move forward.
"We’ve probably not played as fluently as what we have done previously but that happens in games. But they’ve worked through it and we’ve eventually opened them up again and taken the opportunity."
Southern United coach Mike Fridge was again proud of his side’s effort but reflected on the lack of execution in the key moments.
"I’m disappointed because I think the boys did a lot in the game and probably deserved to at least get something out of the game," Fridge said.
"But we’ve lost two bad goals, we’ve scored a decent goal and we’ve missed a penalty. If you don’t put the ball in the back of the net you’re not going to get the points.
"It can be a cruel game sometimes and it’s a dejected dressing room at the moment."
The result means that Hawkes Bay momentarily move to the top of the ASB Premiership while Southern United remain fixed to the bottom of the ladder.