THE Verri Industries Douglas Dragons battled to a 1-1 draw with one of the competition favourites Marlin Coast on Sunday.
It was a very hard-earned point and could well have been three points had the Dragons managed to hang on to the lead they gained through Ciaran Lemon’s first half penalty.
The match was a torrid affair with play being stopped for about half an hour following a head clash that resulted in a Marlin Coast player swallowing his tongue and later being taken to hospital.
There were injury problems for the Dragons too with Lemon breaking a bone in his wrist early in the match only to bravely carry on, score the Dragons goal and put in an outstanding 90-minute performance.
Douglas, playing the first of their JCU “home” matches started brightly, having particular success attacking down the right hand side.
Captain Nick Tither, moved into midfield for the clash, could have put the Dragons in front with an audacious volley from 40 yards having seen the Marlin Coast keeper out of position but unfortunately the wind carried the ball slightly over the bar.
The game was then delayed while the Marlin Coast player received treatment following a nasty head clash with Dragons coach Logan Marsh.
After the restart the Dragons again were on the front foot. Joe Fox, playing out wide on the right, released Lemon who was through on goal only for a late flag to halt play for offside.
After the whistle, he was tackled and in the process injured his wrist however he bravely carried on to good effect.
Moments later he was again released by Fox and this time he lured the defender into a challenge with the referee pointing to the spot immediately.
Lemon picked himself up and calmly slotted home the penalty to give the Dragons a deserved lead.
Douglas were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men and concede a penalty when keeper Gary Fitzgerald rugby tackled an opposition striker only for the referee to turn a blind eye.
The second half continued as the first had ended with Marlin Coast laying siege to the Dragons goal with the Dragons content to soak up the pressure and hit Marlin Coast on the counter attack.
The Dragons were tiring but still the equaliser was eluding Marlin Coast, however, their fullbacks were continuing to bomb forward relentlessly.
With 10 minutes to go they broke once more down the Dragons right and from the resulting cross the ball was poked him past a couple of sprawling Douglas challenges and past the despairing Fitzgerald.
While it was a bitter pill to swallow it was a deserved goal and now the Dragons had to dig deep to ensure they left with a point.
The Paddy’s Bar Man of the Match went to Joe Fox who put in a hardworking shift down the right flank, tracking the opposition runners and using the ball intelligently, especially in the first half.
Next up for the Dragons is a trip to Innisfail in the final game of the first round.
A win for the Dragons, will see them finish the first round in the top four and in an excellent position to push on from.