Knights foiled by Crusaders' wall

Soccer: Opportunistic Canmore maintain perfect season

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 06:00 am

Holy Trinity Academy Knight midfielder Braden Barwich battles for possession with Canmore Crusaders central defender Brandon Butler on May 22 at Riverside Park. Canmore took the contest by a 4-1 score.
Holy Trinity Academy Knight midfielder Braden Barwich battles for possession with Canmore Crusaders central defender Brandon Butler on May 22 at Riverside Park. Canmore took the contest by a 4-1 score.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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It’s back to the drawing board for the Holy Trinity Academy Knights.

In their second and final regular season meeting with the undefeated Canmore Crusaders, HTA couldn’t rise above the height and physicality of their opponents and dropped a 4-1 result on Thursday at Okotoks’ Riverside Park.

“Because they’re so tall we can’t put it over them and we’re used to sending those over balls and they’re heading every single one,” said Knights midfielder Simon Leslie. “They’re very physical and won’t let you get past them at all.

“We just have to change our tactics a bit. We’re always trying to go over and I think we have to play on the ground, right around them, because we can play quick like that.”

The Knights found themselves down by three at half on goals from Canmore strikers Jackson Howatt, Shabouki Webb and midfielder Graeme Shea despite holding much of the possession and winning the midfield battle for large portions of the opening 45 minutes.

HTA took a page out of the Canmore repertoire to finally get on the board midway through the second-half. Braden Barwich quickly transitioned the ball up field to Leslie on the left wing who fired a deft through ball for striker Arnaud Nimenya to one-time past the Canmore keeper.

“I saw Arnaud running on the side,” Leslie said.

“I passed it right in the middle and he finished greatly.

“Every time I get the ball, I’m always looking for (Arnaud) because he’s making those runs.”

They nearly cut the lead in half minutes later when winger Jordan McCarthy found a hole on the left flank only to see his shot fire off the outside of the post.

The Crusaders quickly responded as Ryan Statham broke through on the rush and deked Knights keeper James Hielema to put the finishing touches on the Canmore triumph.

“Holy Trinity is always a good team, we respect their program and admire their team and that was a very important match today in our league,” said Canmore head coach Gary Anderson, a legendary NFL placekicker in his heyday. “Our guys more than stood up to the challenge.”

The towering central defending duo of captain Aidan Miller and Brandon Butler stymied attack after attack with their strength in the air and on the ground and transitioned the ball up field swiftly to guide Canmore’s dangerous counterattack.

“We’ve got a very young team and our strength is in the back,” Anderson said.

“I’m very proud of our defenders, they’re quite physical and do a good proper job.”

The three-goal loss was a marked improvement on the Knights’ 7-0 defeat, featuring a shorthanded roster, eight days prior in the Rockies.

“If we can play the first half the way we played the second half we would have done a lot better,” said Knights head coach Crystal Anderson.“We got a little bit down, a little bit hard on ourselves. We need to improve our communication.

“With some practice and a couple changes we could definitely take them.”

HTA came away far from empty handed in a busy week on the pitch.

The Knights endured a seesaw affair with the Foothills Falcons a mere 24 hours earlier with the former twice coming back for a gutsy 5-3 victory.

Falcons captain Garrett Young kicked-off a brilliant performance by opening the scoring off a corner kick. Foothills winger Dallin Lyons leaped to the hair to knock the ball down for Young to fire on goal.

HTA responded almost immediately. Midfielder Barwich’s through ball sprung Nimenya who coolly chipped the ball past the on-charging keeper.

Foothills would restore its one goal advantage before halftime as Young won a one-on-one battle in the eighteen-yard box and used his left foot to find the back of the net.

Facing the prospects of a first loss to their crosstown rival since the 2011 season, the Knights poured it on after the break. Barwich would curl a sublime left-footer to even the score followed by another goal created by the pace of Nimenya up-front.

Nearing the final whistle, Young would complete a deserved hat-trick as he dribbled through a pair of Knights defenders and fired into the low corner.

The resilient Knights dusted themselves off quickly with Barwich using his right foot on a beautiful free-kick to put the Knights in front for good.

Nimenya added a hat-trick of his own for good measure on the counterattack to complete the 5-3 scoreline.

The Knights close out their regular season tonight in Strathmore as they tackle the Spartans. The Falcons wrap up their FAC slate on Monday, June 2 in Canmore.

Approaching on the horizon is the South Central Zones. The tournament runs June 5-6 in picturesque Cochrane. The Knights are back-to-back zone finalists as runners-up to the Crusaders.

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