Knights edge Falcons in opening thriller
Soccer: HTA takes Okotoks derby 2-1 to open FAC action
Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:00 am
When all else fails, keep firing at the net.
Jordan McCarthy’s first of two second half tallies broke the deadlock and paced the Holy Trinity Academy Knights to a 2-1 victory over the rival Foothills Falcons in a terrific Foothills Athletic Council opener for both teams on April 30.
“I was pretty relieved. It was a tight game, 0-0 for quite a lot,” said McCarthy on finding the elusive opening tally. “I wouldn’t say I got the goal myself. I was set up in the box.
“A ball went over the defender and I took it in and managed to get around one guy and put it in.”
Less than 10 minutes later, the talismanic winger doubled the Knights’ advantage. Teammate Braden Barwich’s low shot bounced off Falcons goalkeeper Linton Grant right to Stephano Leblic who lifted a pass across goal for McCarthy to one-timer into the back of the net.
The Knights threatened to increase the lead with sustained pressure intermittently broken up by a speedy Falcons outfit on the counterattack.
Inside five minutes of the final whistle the Falcons showed why they’re dangerous on the rush as midfielder Dallin Lyons collected his own rebound off Knights goalkeeper James Hielema and swiftly slid the ball past the outstretched shot stopper.
The fleet-footed Falcons could not outrun the clock as the Knights kept their cool under pressure and held on for the nervous one-goal victory.
“Knowing there was five-minutes left in the game was helpful, to be honest,” said Knights coach Crystal Anderson. “Keeping up our solid defence and the cheering on the bench and keeping up our spirits, too. We didn’t really let it get us down.
“That’s a good indication for the rest of the season, too.”
The Falcons took a measure of satisfaction in the result as well after producing a much more competitive Okotoks derby than in season’s past.
“Both teams fought hard and unfortunately chances just happened to fall in their favour,” said Falcons coach Manoel Pequeno. “The boys came out to play for the first game of the season and it was great to see.”
Foothills’ resolute defending was led by physical sweeper Jason Smith as well as defence partners Chance Newell and Matt Achtymichuk.
When the Knights threatened in the final third, Foothills’ last line of defence was there time after time, including a pair of brilliant saves on Knights striker Arnaud Nimenya and left midfielder Simon Leslie.
“Linton definitely kept us in the game, taking up balls and we owe a lot to him,” Pequeno added. “They managed to sneak through and Linton shut the door on them.
A change was as good as a rest for the Knights after the first half.
Anderson used the half-time break to remind the Knights to slow things down on the pitch.
“I told them to keep it simple because we hadn’t practiced in a while and it’s our first time outside together so I just said communication and movement,” Anderson said. “We switched up our format a little bit to a 4-3-3.
“I told them the first half was more so our practice … and I want the real game to come out in the second-half.”
The Knights certainly heeded the advice with sustained pressure after the break, with little to show for it. Energetic midfielder Matthew Mundy’s brilliant individual effort was stopped only by the crossbar. Shortly thereafter Leslie’s free-kick bounced off a Falcon and bounced off the far post. Persistence finally paid off when HTA was finally rewarded with McCarthy’s brace.
Both sides viewed the hard-fought battle as a harbinger of things to come in what should be a much more balanced drive to top-spot in the FAC as a means to dethrone the two-time defending league champion Canmore Crusaders at the top of the heap.
“We have a full roster, all 18 came out to play and it was a great way to start the season,” Pequeno said. “Very promising, very encouraging for the rest of the season.”
The Knights are back on the pitch tonight, May 7, as they host the Strathmore Spartans at Riverside Park for an opening kick-off at 4:30 p.m. The Falcons host the Notre Dame Collegiate Timberwolves at the same time over at Kinsmen field.