Pirate head coach Brendan Keyes knew going into the game at the weekend against Houston United that a win would put them top of the league, but the same could be said for United; the league is that tight.
Coach Keyes said after the game: "United are the best team we have played so far in the league, we haven't played Elite yet and I am sure they will be just as good. We have played Houston United twice in the season now and it was a good judge for us to measure how far the Pirate team has come since the beginning of the season."
Carrying on he said: "First time around we lost 4-2 and I believe the team has come a long way since then."
This time around the game started badly for the Pirates with United scoring after only four minutes when the Pirate defense went missing in action.
United scored early to put pressure on the Pirates but as the game wore on, chances swung from end to end with the best chance falling to Michael Hutson, who hit a beautiful shot from the top of the box only for the United keeper to save, keeping his side in the lead and taking a halftime score of 1-0 into the break.
The Pirates perhaps had the better of the opportunities in the first 45 but as yet were not making the most of them.
With the second half underway, it appeared that the the Pirates were in the mood to change things around—and it only took 10 minutes for that attitude to take effect.
Michael Hutson pulled the Galveston side back into the game with yet another great goal—a shot from an acute angle that he had picked up after a rebound that the United keeper had parried away from goal.
Despite the Pirates looking in control of the game, they couldn't find the second goal that would give them the lead. They were to rue their missed chances as United took the lead with their second of the match with a nice 1-2 that made the scoreline 2-1.
For the second time in this match the Pirate defense could maybe be blamed for the goal after not picking up the United runners, but it would be harsh to assign blame for the goal since this is a team game. Perhaps the missed chances at the other end could be at blame for the team not leading at this point.
With 20 minutes left to play, the Houston side added another goal to give themselves a 3-1 lead. It looked like the finishing touch of the game as the Pirate side found it tough to get anything from the match at this point.
Pirate coach Brendan Keyes made a change with this time remaining in the hope of changing the outcome of the game, with Oscar Carrillo replacing Daniel Contreras to set up a 3-4-3 formation.
This change created an almost instant change to the game with the Pirate side keeping possession and creating some great chances by spreading the ball to wide areas and eventually scoring a cracking goal.
Fabrice Bongo was to pick up a through ball before finishing off to make it 3-2 and give the Pirates a fighting chance as the game wore on.
Now in complete control, the Pirates were pressing for an equalizer; meanwhile their opponents, Houston United, were resorting to playing the long ball to clear their lines in the hope time would run out for the Galveston players.
United's goalkeeper made some fine saves from Bongo, Yanez, Hutson and Carrillo to keep his side in the lead at 3-2 and continue to frustrate the Pirates in their search for the elusive equalizing goal.
Just as it seemed that time was running out for the Pirates, they finally managed the equalizer when Yanez latched on to the ball just inside the box and hit it into the upper corner of the net to make the score 3-3.
With this euphoria surging through their ranks, the Pirates now set their sights on a winning goal.
In the dying moments of the game Hutson had a great chance to grab the late winner when he found himself wide open four yards out, only to spin and hit it right into the keeper's arms.
After the game Coach Keyes said: "I can't be to upset as we were 3-1 down and fought back to almost snatch the result in the end but I honestly believe we were the better team throughout despite going behind."
"For the last 30 minutes we played some great football, but we need to cut out the mistakes at the back and take more of our chances up front. Today United had a keeper in inspired form and on another day we would have won" said Keyes.
"The guys know they missed an opportunity to go top of the league today but also showed character coming back and almost winning the game and all said we have to settle for a draw and it's not a bad result against a very good team" continued the head coach.
Man of the match must have been the United keeper, who kept the team at bay for long stretches of the match; a special mention must go to Pirate crewmate Jonathan Yanez, who has just come back from 15 months of not playing.
Marc Roseblade is a Contributor for Bleacher Report, Ayr United Football Academy & NotJustScottishFootball. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated.
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