The spoils were shared as Gold Coast Knights marked their return to the Croatian Sports Centre with a 2-2 draw against Eastern Suburbs on Saturday night.
Goals from Jheison Macuace and Jarrod Kyle weren’t enough to secure all three points against an Easts side who struck through Jayden Balarezo and Anthony Poljak.
It was the visitors who drew first blood in the 14th minute when Balarezo pounced to finish into an empty net after Josh Langdon could only parry Poljak’s initial effort.
Knights restored parity almost immediately through Macuace, who bundled Jayden Prasad’s cross over the line at the back post, taking his tally for the 2020 NPL Queensland season to eight goals.
The home side then took the lead through Kyle in the 33rd minute when he turned home a Mitch Nichols cross at the near post, handing the Knights the lead heading into the break.
Knights were pegged back in the 71st minute when Poljak broke free of the back four and fired home an equaliser from the edge of the area to steal a share of the points for the visitors.
Despite only taking a draw from Saturday’s match Knights remain level with Lions at the top of the NPL Queensland standings after the 2019 Premiers were held to a draw by Brisbane City.
Speaking post-match, Knights Head Coach, Grae Piddick said his side are continuing to build as they return from the COVID enforced lay off.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed not to come away with the win. We played good football in patches and had enough chances to win the the match, but after four months away it takes time to sustain that level of performance and cut out the silly mistakes that ultimately cost us,” Piddick said.
“We should have put the game to bed earlier with the opportunities we had in the first half, I was pleased with the way we were creating chances, we just need to be more clinical.”
Piddick added this week’s two matches against Lions & Easts would prove invaluable for his side as return to regular competitive action.
“We’re much better for the two games we’ve got in, in quick succession this week, finally getting some competitive minutes under our belt,” Piddick said.
“After four months away, the first few matches were always going to be a bit of a battle but now we return to some normality in terms of the schedule and get to work ahead of facing Brisbane City next week.”
A major positive for the Knights was the return of Adam Endean, who came on as a second half substitute to play his first competitive minutes for the after tearing his ACL 12 months ago.
South Melbourne loanee, Harrison Sawyer also came on as a second half substitute in what was his first appearance as a Knights player.
“It was great to see Adam (Endean), back out there working hard, after what was an even longer time away from the game for him.” Piddick said.
“With him coming back and a number of others coming in there’s a really healthy competition for places, which is good position for us to be in.”
Knights now turn their attention to next Saturday’s trip to CTM Stadium to take on Brisbane City (6pm KO).
NPL Queensland 2020: Round 22 – Gold Coast Knights v Eastern Suburbs
Croatian Sports Centre, Carrara
Saturday, 1 August
Gold Coast Knights – 2 (Jheison MACUACE 16’, Jarrod KYLE 33’)
Eastern Suburbs – 2 (Jayden BALAREZO 14’, Anthony POLJAK 71’)