Wakefield-born Alan Hunte took a point from his first match in caretaker control of Salford City Reds as his men drew 23-23 with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Sunday.
Hunte, who had a short spell as a player with Wakefield, took charge of the struggling Reds last week following the sacking of Phil Veivers and his side deserved at least a share of the spoils for their efforts at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium.
Wildcats scored five tries to Salford’s four but the Reds led for long parts of the game against a well below-par Wakefield, who were without skipper Danny Kirmond, Andy Raleigh, Kyle Amor and Reece Lyne.
Richard Agar’s troops started well and opened the scoring with their first attack of the match. A couple of Salford errors allowed Wakefield good field position and a flowing passing move involving Tim Smith, Richard Mathers and Dean Collis resulted in Peter Fox going over in the corner.
There was no opening of the Salford floodgates, however, as the Reds regrouped and soon got on level terms. Jodie Broughton’s try was a controversial one, with referee Thierry Alibert failing to spot what seemed to be a forward pass in the build-up.
The visitors were ahead six minutes later when replacement Lee Jewitt spotted a gap in a leaking Wakefield defence to score with his first touch of the match. Marc Sneyd tagged on the extras.
It was the first time Salford had led in a first half this season and they refused to relinquish it before the break.
Dean Collis reduced the deficit when he took a pass from Mathers, running the ball on the last tackle, to cross but Sykes failed to level matters with the conversion.
But Wakefield’s lax defending was exposed again after the half-hour mark. Gareth Owen had already been thwarted before Theo Fages went over as the visitors capitalised on a good spell of pressure.
It was a healthy lead for the struggling Reds but Wildcats did not let Hunte’s men cement their dominance and Frankie Mariano made a good run to take a Tim Smith pass and dive over the line. Sykes kicked his first two points.
The half ended in controversy as Salford were rightly awarded a penalty in the final minute and Hunte instructed his men to take the two. Sneyd obliged but only one linesman raised his flag - still enough to see the points awarded and Salford take a four-point advantage into the break.
That was extended eight minutes into the second half when Jack Murphy capitalised on a Lee Smith fumble to race down the wing and edge his side further ahead.
Errors were aplenty for both sides on the restart and it was from a Sneyd kick out on the full that allowed Wakefield in good field position to pull some points back.
Danny Washbrook was the man over when he spotted a gap in the Salford defence and touched down from another Tim Smith assist.
A scrappy spell of play followed but Wakefield dug in and got on level terms in the 67th minute when Ben Cockayne celebrated his England call-up with a try out wide.
Lee Smith provided the pass for the 29-year-old to score his seventh try in six Super League matches this season but Sykes’s bad day with the boot continued as he failed with a touch kick that would have given the hosts the lead.
It left the game in the balance and Salford edged ahead thanks to a Mark Steyn drop goal with seven minutes to play.
Sykes responded with a drop goal of his own to level matters before failing with a desperate late attempt from 40 metres to win it.