Chorus of jeers after stalemate

THE spectators were not happy but Ernest Borel and Sing Tao both seemed content with a dreary 0-0 draw in the Hongkong First Division at Mongkok Stadium last night.

The final whistle was met with boos and jeers by the crowd of 1,141.

Sing Tao, who had lost their previous two league games, were reduced to 10 men for the last 15 minutes with the dismissal of central defender Sammy Wong Wai-tak for a clumsy foul on Borel's nippy front-runner, Au Wai-lun.

And Borel, fielding new recruit Tony Finnigan in midfield, collected their first point for more than three months and kept only their second clean sheet in 10 league and cup games.

Sing Tao's point enabled them to move above Kitchee into fourth place in the 10-team table, while Borel increased their tally to eight, two points clear of the relegation zone.

Borel 'keeper Tim Dalton summed up the relief in the camp at having ended a depressing run of five successive defeats.

''The confidence in the team has been very low so any sort of result for us was important, especially coming off two 4-0 defeats,'' said the 27-year-old Dalton.

''Keeping a clean sheet was a bonus; hopefully this result will give us confidence and something to build on.

''At the moment I am just pleased to be playing in the team because we have had a bad start and the first person people look at is the goalkeeper.

''We had more of the play and possibly were the better team but could not make many clear-cut chances.

''A win would have been nice but at least there is a platform to build on.'' Borel certainly lacked power up front without Peter Murray, who was de-registered to make way for Finnigan, and the injured Keith Thompson, who will be out for at least two weeks with a pulled thigh muscle.

Craig Foster, the midfield inspiration behind the team's Viceroy Cup and FA Cup successes last season but struggling to find his form this time, was pushed up front alongside Au in a lightweight attack which was well marked by the strong Sing Tao defence.

Wimbledon-born Finnigan, 30, formerly with Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers, played his first game in a two-month trial and clearly lacked match sharpness, although he came close to a debut goal in the 28th minute when his low right-foot drive from theedge of the box went just wide of Peter Guthrie's right-hand post.

Guthrie was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers, with Sing Tao striker John Moore working hard up front but lacking support from a midfield content to sit back.

Au, on the right, broke clear of the Sing Tao defence in the 75th minute but his cross was wasted by Ng Kam-hung, who headed over the bar. In the next minute, when Au again beat his marker, Wong, for pace, the Sing Tao defender dragged him to the ground 10 yards outside the box and was shown the red card.

Down to 10 men for the second successive match - sweeper Jason Hall was dismissed against Eastern five days earlier - Sing Tao went further into their shell to avoid a third consecutive defeat.