July 14, 2024
  • July 14, 2024

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 11 — Sometimes It Needs To Be Messy

By on July 2, 2024 0 516 Views

Coming off a massive, club-record 4-0 win against Vancouver FC, the Halifax Wanderers found themselves at home playing against Cavalry FC, a squad that has historically dominated them.

In the Canadian Premier League, momentum is hard to come by, but with their backs still against the wall, the Wanderers wanted to prove that their season’s opening win wasn’t a fluke.

Game Recap:

Every soccer player has experienced showing up to a field and realizing that the grass is far too long and that the game will be an absolute slog of long balls, errors in passing, and tired, heavy legs by the end of the match. With heavy rains over the weekend, it seemed like the maintenance team at the Wanderers Grounds was unable to cut the grass, leading to a slightly longer, slower pitch than most of the players were used to.

This manifested itself early in the game, as when the field is slow, there is typically more space, with players moving slightly slower and the ball has to be played long more often to avoid risking a misplayed pass when playing short and low (more on that later). Both Cavalry and the Wanderers launched countless long balls early in the match, with both clubs earning early corner kicks and basically a track meet with each team running up and down the pitch, trading crosses into the box. All that to say, it was wide-open in the sense that the ball was moving up and down the field. Still, the final finish was extremely difficult for either team to find, as sure-footing and solid striking are rare in tough, rainy, slow conditions. Still, both teams traded strikes that either just grazed the posts, deflected wide, or were blown completely due to poor footing. The match seemingly balanced on a knife’s edge, with either team moments away from a goal at all times in the first 30 minutes.

For Cavalry, nobody had more clear-cut chances that, on a day with better conditions, could have been finished than Tobias Warschewski, who had four chances that had Wanderers fans holding their breath and preparing for Cavalry players to flood towards the Kitchen to celebrate a go-ahead goal. Yet, that didn’t happen, as his nearest attempt ricocheted off of the post.

Somehow, the first half ended with no goals, although Halifax went into the half with a bright flurry of attempts that we can argue was crucial to lift their mood going into the break.

Just as the first half had started with drive, energy and direct attacks, so did the second half. Cavalry started with a darting run from Shamit Shome, followed by Halifax countering. The shot may have been blocked, but as is the case in these conditions, sometimes it is more about waiting for the other team to make mistakes instead of creating the chance yourself.

After a poor giveaway from Cavalry in the midfield, Ryan Telfer picked the ball up well outside of the box, drove forward, cut onto his left foot, and slammed the ball low and hard, just out of the reach of Marco Carducci to give the Wanderers a one-goal lead just four minutes into the second half. Telfer, who has scored three goals in the last two games, is now showing why the club recruited him so intensely and has quieted the doubters (like me).

As has been the question in the past few weeks, could the Wanderers hold onto their lead and keep the three points at home? Against Vancouver, they piled the goals on, but prior to that game, the team hadn’t shown great fortitude and had given up multiple leads throughout the season.

For the first seven or so minutes after the Wanderers’ goal, Cavalry pressed extremely hard, basically keeping Halifax in their half the whole time. They drilled in shots and crosses with reckless abandon, either being cleared away, saved by Yann Fillion, or just narrowly missing the net. Finally, in the 60th minute, the Wanderers won a foul, allowing them to calm down, catch their breath, and pull momentum away from Cavalry. Almost as if letting air out of a balloon, all the energy and adrenaline that Cavalry had after going down a goal started to escape, there was space all over the field for the Wanderers to run into, maintain possession, and force Cavalry to chase. It should be mentioned that Cavalry’s bench was less than experienced, as they have been bitten by the injury bug, and many of their key players were unavailable for Nik Ledgerwood to select for the match. For the Wanderers, after the goal went in, it became a game of attrition: who could survive the heavy pitch, continue pressing, and stay defensively sound for the longest?

Then, in the 70th minute, the fatigue fully set in for the Cavalry, as they became more wayward with their passing, more willing to take tactical fouls to reduce running, and lost their shape in transition.

Still, as football matches always do, Cavalry found a few chances here and there late in the match, but none of them really troubled Yann Fillion.

Finally, the full-time whistle blew. The Wanderers won their second in a row, are unbeaten in their last five, and have kept three clean sheets in the last four matches. Things are turning around for the club, and the league should be noticing.

Standings:

W/D/L: 2/4/5 (10 points) –

The Wanderers still sit in eighth place but are now tied with Valour FC for seventh in the table. However, they maintain the eighth spot due to the tiebreaker procedure (number of wins). While there hasn’t been any movement up or down the table after these two wins in a row, the Wanderers have closed the gap to a playoff spot significantly and now sit just six points back. They have an extra game to play to bring that gap to only three points.

Milestones:

Jefferson Alphonse made his Wanderers debut, playing 9 minutes. He becomes the 85th player to wear a Wanderers shirt in an official match for the club.

Ryan Telfer scored his fifth goal for the Wanderers in all competitions. That places him in a tie for sixth overall after playing only 11 matches. I’m not sure if this shows how good his form has been in the last two weeks or if it shows how poor the Wanderers have been in front of goal in their club history.

As mentioned in the last Wanderers Recap, Yann Fillion was tied for second in clean sheets and now holds sole second place for clean sheets and inches towards Christian Oxner for most wins and clean sheets for the club. Fillion needs five more wins and eight more clean sheets to tie Christian for first in both categories, respectively. While it seemed unlikely that Fillion would catch Oxner after the first nine games of the season, the Wanderers being undefeated in five straight games, including three clean sheets, Fillion could potentially take over the top spot if the team keeps up their undefeated ways.

Next Match:

The Wanderers will play their next match on July 6th against York United in Toronto. York sits fourth in the table, seven points ahead of the Wanderers (although York has played an extra game).

Header Image Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan

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