July 14, 2024
  • July 14, 2024
Halifax Wanderers Daniel Nimick

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 10 – Slumpbuster

By on June 24, 2024 0 1020 Views

So far, the Wanderer’s season has been like wandering through the desert (pun intended): every few days, a mirage appears, but as the Wanderers approach, they realize that it is a mirage and not the thing so crucial to their survival: a win. Even as the sun in Langley played tricks and went from hot to cold and then shrouded in cloud, the Wanderers finally found the oasis that they searched for 261 days to find, since their last win as a football club.

Game Recap:

If you stopped tuning in to Wanderers matches after their horrendous start to the season, you may be unfamiliar with how the Wanderer’s style of play has evolved and how they went from a team that got embarrassed by Atletico Ottawa, Valour, and York United to one which completely dominated Vancouver FC. From my eye, the difference lies within the compactness of the team, the idea of moving the ball forward after creating turnovers, and reducing time spent with the ball at the back.

In earlier games this season, when the Wanderers would take possession from the opposing team, the first thought was to move the ball backwards, maintain possession, choose our tempo, and then try to break down the opposition from a static start. Fast forward to the last few matches, and the focus has shifted to moving forward as a unit and making sure that even if the ball is turned over by the Wanderers, it will be in the opposition’s half and does not give them a golden opportunity off of the turnover. From a less pessimistic view, it is playing front-foot football that looks forward first and only retreats after assessing the options, not assessing after moving the ball back into “safety.”

Additionally, much like last season when the team was thriving, the first thought for defenders when they are in possession is to find the outlet ball, whether that be one of the wingbacks, a midfielder dropping deep, or even a line-breaking forward pass that drew so much praise for Cale Loughrey and Dan Nimick in the 2023 season. This progressive mindset is crucial for the Wanderers and keeps the opposition team on their heels, defending for much of the match as the Wanderers relentlessly push to move the ball forward. After all, the team has the highest xG of any club so far this season, but the goals just hadn’t been going in until now.

For the Wanderers, this strategy was apparent early as Ryan Telfer received a wonderful through ball in only the third minute which led to a great chance that the forward wasn’t able to finish. For some Wanderers fans, a start like this could easily trigger memories of great chances but no finishing and the Wanderers losing out on crucial points. Just a few minutes later, Julian Dunn did a great job springing Clement Bayiha free with a wonderful long ball. Bayiha, who is on loan from York United, demonstrated great poise on the ball, moving it forward quickly but not rushing as he flicked the ball into the path of Ryan Telfer, who this time made no mistake and fired the ball into the back of the net!

As the wonderful Adam Jenkins mentions, all it took was two passes and a one-touch finish to find the first goal of the match. Often, when teams try to play quickly, it turns into rushing. This goal, on the other hand, had patience, directness, and intensity, all while being quick. After all, it took only 12 seconds to score once the ball came off Julian Dunn’s boot.

As is often the case, when one team scores, the other team earns an opportunity moments after, and in the 11th minute, Yann Fillion was tested off of a set-piece that pinballed around in the box, but as we have seen from Yann when he is at his best, he is decisive and aggressive, using his large frame to shut down angles and get in the way of close-range shots. This storyline continues throughout the match.

Then, in the 17th minute, Wes Timeteo jumped a passing lane, sprinted down the pitch, whipped an aggressive cross into the box, and somewhat gratuitously, the ball landed at the feet of Ryan Telfer, who used his wand of a left foot to curl the ball past a helpless Callum Irving.

After 17 minutes and two goals for Ryan Telfer, the boys were flying, and it felt like they wanted more. This was the team that Wanderers supporters were promised in the off-season, the one which received so much hype and expectation from media and fans before the season started.

Still, this is Halifax, and wins don’t come easily. In the 25th minute, Julian Dunn went down with an injury. It looked relatively innocuous, and based on his injury history we can only hope that it was a small tweak and not something bigger. After all, this has arguably been the most consistent stretch of games he has played with any club in his career. Replacing him was Dan Nimick, club vice-captain and leader of men, but also a player coming off of an injury. Certainly Gheisar and the staff would have preferred to give him a softer introduction with fewer minutes remaining in the game. As if he hadn’t missed a minute, just a couple of minutes later, Nimick popped up in the box on a free-kick and almost extended the lead to three, his first-time volley flashing across the face of goal, Irving rooted to the spot. Vancouver FC received a gift that Nimick couldn’t find the back of the net on that attempt.

Flashback: Nimick Calls On Wanderers To Find Their Way: β€˜No Time To Hide Now, It’s Do Or Die’

As is so often the case with football, time will fly by, a few moments latching onto the memory, then in a flash all of it becomes clear and you can describe every part of the scene. In the 38th minute, Massimo Ferrin got in on the action, driving at Paris Gee after a defensive error by Vancouver. Gee, as defenders often do, lowered his shoulder and pushed Ferrin off of the ball, and if the match didn’t feel as one-sided, this could have easily been called a penalty, but the call was not given. The no-call isn’t the thing that stood out, it was the ruthlessness with which Ferrin went at Vancouver. He wanted to squeeze every drop of life that Vancouver had left, the scars of blown leads creating a killer’s mentality. Call me crazy, but if the Wanderers can capitalize off of the scar tissue of blowing leads early in the season, it could be a huge benefit to the team and how they try to close out matches.

Next thing you know half-time has passed, it’s seven minutes into the second half, and Vancouver FC are starting to find some joy in the game: one of their chances came off of a Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare clearance that almost went in off of Yann Fillion’s post. For Wanderers fans, heart rates were rising slowly as fear of another blown lead felt more and more likely. No higher was the heart rate than in the 65th minute when the first hint of real disaster seemed to strike. In a somewhat innocuous moment in midfield, Andre Rampersad got turned around and, in an attempt to save possession, raised his boot high. While I believe that Rampersad would never do it on purpose, his boot was high, it was a reckless move, and at live speed it looked like he caught Vasco Fry high. On replay, Rampersad lowered his boot right in time to ensure Fry didn’t receive any serious injuries, but rightfully so Rampersad received a straight red card. Any boot that is high and catches an opponent, whether it be in the chest/side or the face, deserves a red card. Wanderers would have been calling for the red card if the same happened to one of their players. The Wanderers now needed to defend a two-goal lead, down a player with 25 minutes remaining.

Deja Vu? Two weeks in a row? Certainly, a fan’s heart can only take so much heartbreak. On the ensuing play, Gabriel Bitar tested Yann Fillion, but as mentioned before Fillion was sharp and attacked the ball, parrying it away for a Vancouver corner kick. Fillion also used that as an opportunity to get some treatment and gave his team some time to reorganize themselves and calm down.

Calm down and reorganize they did, as the Wanderers held firm and even continued dominating the attacking areas and winning a corner in the 76th minute that would lead to a crucial moment: Dan Nimick scoring a headed goal.

3-0 for the Wanderers, 14 minutes to play, one goal away from scoring four in a game for the first time in club history. The home stretch was close, but as someone who has followed the Wanderers since their inception, there is always the feeling that there will be an unexpected twist.

Interestingly, the unexpected twist was another goal for the Wanderers, four in a match, which now accounts for a third of all the goals they have scored this season. This time, the goal comes through a penalty shot as Massimo Ferrin drew the foul and, as you’d expect, Dan Nimick stepped up and scored his seventh goal from the penalty spot in a Wanderer’s shirt.

At this point, the game was done and dusted, all the Wanderers needed to do was focus on rewarding their goalkeeper with a clean sheet. While they gave up a soft corner, they held firm and almost grabbed a fifth goal. Finally, the whistle blew: full-time, Wanderers win, a 261-day drought finally over. The proverbial rains pour down, and the celebrations begin as hope is renewed, and belief that this team could still come good on their potential is in the air.

Standings:

W/D/L: 1/4/5 (7 points)

After ten games, the Wanderers are level on points with Valour, who is in seventh place. Valour has played an additional game so in theory once that game is made up, the Wanderers could move ahead of the Winnipeg club. In terms of the last playoff spot, the Wanderers are eight points back, with 18 matches remaining.

Milestones:

  • With the brace, Dan Nimick now has ten goals for the Wanderers, becoming just the fifth player to do so and the first defender to reach that milestone.
  • Yann Fillion is now tied with Kieran Baskett for second all-time in Wanderers clean sheets with nine. He is nine away from catching Christian Oxner for first in clean sheets with the club and is only six wins away from tying for most wins as a goalkeeper for the team as well.
  • Ryan Telfer is now tied for ninth all-time in Wanderers goals (with five other players), with a total of four.
  • This marks the first time the Halifax Wanderers have enjoyed a four-goal win in club history.

Next Match:

The Wanderers will be rewarded with their stellar win with a full week off, with their next match coming on July 1 against Cavalry at the Wanderers Grounds. Cavalry is currently in sixth place with 14 points, seven points ahead of the Wanderers, and one point outside of the final playoff spot.

Header Image Photo Credit: James Glezos

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