ST. PETERSBURG — A ghastly half-minute threatened to ruin Joe Cole's debut with the Rowdies on Saturday, but they managed an entertaining 1-1 draw with Rayo OKC before a throaty crowd of 6,702 at Al Lang Stadium.
Though Tampa Bay overcame a second-half deficit, the Rowdies will feel they only settled for a point after dominating much of the action and owning a 17-6 edge in shots.
"Not disappointed with the performance, disappointed with the result," said Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell, whose team has won just once in four home contests.
With Tampa Bay down 1-0 in the 74th minute Tommy Heinemann, out of the starting lineup for the first time this season, took full advantage of an on-point through ball from Michael Nanchoff. Heinemann's flick was on target and got a nudge in from a defender for an own goal.
"Happy it went in, happy we got the draw but feel like we left three points on table," Heinemann said.
Heinemann appeared to have given Tampa Bay the lead in the 88th minute on a free kick from Cole, who Campbell said had asked the official to take the kick and thought it was granted — but it was whistled dead. And Cole almost created a dramatic stoppage-time winner as his long ball found its way to sub Georgi Hristov, who crushed one over the crossbar.
Campbell said he'd figured on Cole getting tired somewhere past the hour mark and needing to be subbed out, but he played too well and went the distance.
"I was afraid to make eye contact with him. I looked at him at 90 minutes and asked, 'Are you okay?' and he just looked at me," Campbell said.
OKC's goal was a gift 54 minutes in. OKC sent in a long ball that Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens could not quite corral. As he was diving for the ball, defender Neill Collins collided with him and knocked the ball out of Pickens' hands in the goalmouth. Michel tapped in his fourth goal of the season.
"Terrible from our standpoint. Horrendous," Campbell said.
Pickens kept the game scoreless and Collins almost provided a set piece goal in the 40th minute, but his header from fellow defender Tam Mkandawire missed by feet. The Rowdies keeper also had to come up with two reflex saves to deny OKC's Robbie Findley in the first half.