The HFX Wanderers Recap: Matchday 2 (Forge FC)
Today was a big day in the Wanderers’ history, with Andre Rampersad becoming the first player in club history to reach 100 competitive appearances. He is a player that receives praise, but most HFX Wanderers fans feel that he deserves more from people outside of the east coast. All celebrations aside, the season moves forward with the last of a three-game away stretch that saw the Wanderers secure an away point and get eliminated from the Canadian Championship.
Matchday Two for the Wanderers was met with cautious optimism, if not skewing towards pessimism for the Wanderers faithful, as Forge is a team that held them scoreless in the 2022 season. With the context of the match set, let’s get into the recap!
Much like I mentioned in a prior article, Daniel Nimick has become a stalwart in the Wanderer’s lineup, as he was paired with Cale Loughrey for the first time and has now had a different central defensive partner for every match he has played in Wanderer’s blue. Outside of this change, the team was slightly rotated from their midweek cup tie, and there weren’t many surprises.
Five minutes in, and it felt like this game was going to take the same shape that games against Forge usually take, as Noah Jensen rattled a ball against the crossbar, and Forge seemed to find lots of possession in the final third. But, as the game progressed, this barrage of shots led to Yann Fillion finding his feet (and gloves). As the confidence in Yann built, the Wanderers pushed further forward, which led to an audacious bicycle kick attempt by Kosi Nwafornso.
As the match progressed, both teams had chances, and possession was relatively split between the two teams. Finally, in the 41st minute, Wesley Timeteo broke the match wide open with an expansive crossfield ball that set Massimo Ferrin in on goal. At first, it seemed as if the move was shut down, but Ferrin cut inside and played a delightful give-and-go with Captain Andre Rampersad before firing the ball low into the corner and past Tristan Henry for his 2nd goal in two matches.
As soon as the goal went in, the Wanderers went into counterattack mode, as Forge increased their pressure and tried to force mistakes. Forge, in total, had 18 shot attempts, six of which were on target. And as Forge always do when they are rarely down, they pushed extra hard and dominated possession. And the Wanderers held out until the 89th minute when Woobens Pacius finally found a way through and scrambled the ball into the back of the net. The goal, a stark contrast to the fluid, precise finish of Ferrin, tied the match and split the points, and somehow, Wanderers fans were disappointed with a singular point against a team who outscored them 9-0 last season.
To me, this game will be a keystone moment in the Wanderers’ season. Just like against Ottawa in the opening match, they went toe to toe with last season’s finalists. And in this case, the Wanderers were just a few minutes away from taking the win and not feeling like it was lucky. Sure, Forge had the lion’s share of possession in the second half, but the Wanderers stayed compact, disciplined, and at times challenged Forge with their transitional offence. As the team adapts and learns Patrice Gheisars’ system, more chances will come, and those slim one-goal leads might become two and three-goal leads where defending is less stressful (for the players and the fans).
In terms of individual performances, the main standouts for the Wanderers were Yann Fillion, Daniel Nimick and Massimo Ferrin. Of course, it is hard to forget about Andre Rampersad in his 100th match, but I think he is still adjusting to Gheisars’ style and his new role.
All in all, if you had asked Wanderer’s fans before the match if they would be happy with a draw, I believe the majority would’ve agreed, so while a last-minute goal leaves a sour taste in all of our mouths, Wanderers fans must remember that this is a process, and taking two points on the road to open the season is more than was expected.