With their A-League opener barely a fortnight away, Wellington Phoenix continued to build pre-season form in an entertaining 2-2 draw against Auckland City on Saturday.
Auckland opened the scoring after 15 minutes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington via Argentine striker Emiliano Tade, but a defensive error allowed Fiji international Roy Krishna to equalise 10 minutes later.
The visitors pressed the Phoenix defence high up the pitch at every opportunity, working hard to disrupt their passing game, but Wellington scored again when trialist Troy Danaskos beat keeper Jacob Spoonley with a low shot from just inside the box on 33 minutes.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has been looking for a left-sided player who can play centre back or fullback and was pleased with what he saw from Sydney Olympic defender Danaskos after just one training session.
"I thought he did really well, but we won't be making any decision on him just yet," Merrick said.
The momentum of the match was inevitably broken up as both Merrick and Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx emptied their benches in the second half.
Amid the flurry of changes, Auckland produced an equaliser when a cute Tade flick released Ryan De Vries, who finished with a precision shot past Phoenix stopper Glen Moss on the hour mark to level the game.
Merrick was happy with the outing against a committed Auckland side that he described as the better team on the day.
"I don't think we played our best today but it has been a hard week of training and you have to give credit for the way they closed us down," he said.
"I was pleased to get Jeffrey Sarpong on the field today for his first run out as he hasn't played or trained since May before joining us.
"We planned to give him 45 minutes but he wanted to stay on, so we ended up getting a good 60 minutes out of him."
Merrick is pleased with the way his team have built in the pre-season and says they're ready for their A-League opener against Newcastle Jets in Wellington on October 11.
"It's been a good pre-season in which we have scored 33 goals in 12 games and defended pretty well."