A red card, a plethora of saves and a reshuffle in formation and personnel resulted in the Goulburn Valley Suns snatching a well-earned point away from home at Box Hill.
The Suns missed a golden opportunity to close the gap on the competition’s top two sides after Saturday’s scoreless draw with Box Hill United at Wembley Park.
After a sluggish start, four clinical saves from Suns goalkeeper Monty Al-Gazaly, who was remarkably still fasting during the tie, kept his side in the game.
Playing coach Nick Kalafatis praised his shot stopper post-match.
‘‘He was sensational, he kept us in the game when we were struggling at the start,’’ Kalafatis said.
‘‘They were clear on goal a few times and Monty made himself as big as possible. He probably deserved man-of-the-match honours.’’
The Suns were sluggish from the outset and could have easily been two or three goals down within the first 30 minutes, but a battle between Al-Gazaly and former Melbourne City youth product Wade Dekker proved crucial leading into half-time.
Often caught at the back via the long ball, Kalafatis reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond in the middle after half-time, but a red card to Craig Carley put a spanner in the works.
Referee Aleksander Liber gave Carley his marching orders in the 56th minute and, as a result, the Suns defended deeper and strangely dominated the remaining 30 minutes.
‘‘It was a turning point. We could not press any more and were forced to sit back and make Box Hill play,’’ Kalafatis said.
‘‘It probably worked in our favour and we were able to create more when we threw Lewis Coyle up top.’’
Kalafatis admitted the Suns may have gone into the game with the wrong tactic and it showed in the second half. When the visitors sat deep, they forced United to play and as a result they struggled.
‘‘I was proud in the end with the result. The boys fought really hard and it was fair, I think, to come away with the draw,’’ Kalafatis said.
‘‘They had their chances early on and then we had ours late. Both teams could have scored.
‘‘But I think the red card showed me that we probably should have started the game a little bit more differently, we could have sat deeper from the beginning.’’
It is the second time the Suns have played out a scoreless draw against United this season and Kalafatis’ side is nine points behind Dandenong Thunder in second place.
‘‘It was a good opportunity for us to close the gap on Thunder, they lost and it goes to show that one week a lot of things can happen,’’ Kalafatis said.
‘‘Instead of trailing by nine, it could have been seven points, but now we will focus on our game against Werribee and then the derby against Murray United.’’