June 22, 2024
  • June 22, 2024
Halifax Wanderers Massimo Ferrin

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 6 – Not So United At York

By on May 24, 2024 0 656 Views

At a certain point for the 2024 Halifax Wanderers, results will need to come. Otherwise, they will purely be playing out the season with their eyes on the 2025 season. 

Sure, that is a dark prognosis, but you are looking at a team who has scored three goals in their first five league games and are winless in all competitions. Much like their match against Valour last week, the Wanderers, on paper, had a great chance to break their slump and start chipping away at the hole that they put themselves into. York United had a decent start, but historically, the Wanderers have done well against them. With the added distraction of letting go of their manager, Martin Nash, and hiring his assistant Mauro Eustaquio as interim manager, Wanderers fans felt that this would be one of the better opportunities to start turning the ship around. 

The ship is turning, but it is still up for debate if it is in the right direction. 

Game Recap:

Sometimes, it can be harder to replicate success than to get it right on the first try. So far, that has been the case for the Wanderers. In an attempt to rekindle the positive vibes of last season, the Wanderers returned to a 4-2-3-1 formation for the match. To the Wanderers’ credit, the first five or so minutes felt very similar to last season. The energy level was higher, and passing felt simpler. Tiago Coimbra created some chances using his large frame, and Lorenzo Callegari was directing the midfield well. Slowly, as the match continued to progress, York created more and more pressure, and for the stretch between the 5th and 15th minute, the Wanderers looked relatively comfortable absorbing the pressure. The interesting thing about when pressure is applied to something is that if you exert enough force, cracks will appear, which is exactly what happened to the Wanderers’ shape. 

Then, in the 20th minute, Austin Ricci was given too much time and space just outside of the box. As Ricci often does, he attempted a moment of magic, and whether it was a cross or a shot doesn’t matter: he made Yann Fillion look silly. 

Out of possession, everything seemed to make sense, not from a successful defending perspective, but more from an “aha.” This is what is going wrong. OneSoccer colour commentator Jon Conway kept saying it, but there was a complete lack of compactness about the team. From the backline all the way to the leading striker, there were 40+ yards. Compactness is a bit of a football buzzword, but it is also the gold standard for well-organized teams. When a team is compact in possession, the passes are shorter (typically leading to improved accuracy), more available options, and the ball typically moves quicker. This compactness was a staple of the Wanderers last season.

While it is debatable where compactness is more important, in or out of possession, what isn’t debatable is that the Wanderers also lacked it when defending, which gave York so much space to run through our midfield, an area that has struggled beyond belief this season both in and out of possession. 

Eventually, this lack of organization was punished as Brian Wright found space before slotting the ball across the face of the net so that Dennis Salanovic could easily tap into it. 

At this moment, you had to feel for Patrice Gheisar, standing on the touchline in his checkered blue shirt, questioning how much longer he would be given to fix the Wanderer’s problems. It wouldn’t be a difficult argument to win that being a manager is the second most difficult job in sports, behind being a referee. If you win, most of the credit goes to players, and if you lose, it is always that you ‘lost the locker room’ or are not at the level required to win games. 

When the second goal went in, it felt like the game went into auto-pilot, with a few half-chances here and there for either team. Eventually, the half-time whistle blew, and mercifully, the Wanderers could return to the locker room to check their wounds, but more importantly check who was still willing to fight.

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

It is not uncommon at this level of sport that if a team is struggling, players will either quit, be released, or loaned during the season, and while I wasn’t in that locker room, I can assume that the players who want their careers in football to continue will have felt like their careers were on the line in that second half. 

Interestingly, there were no visible changes to effort and tactics when the team returned to play, as within two minutes of the game restarting the team had lost its shape and was stretched out more than a rubber band.For the next ten minutes, I couldn’t help but jot down notes about who deserved to stay and who I would move on from, but much like the commentator’s curse, things turn around when you expect something drastically different. With some substitutions, the team started finding their edge, first in terms of physicality (discipline is a big issue that we need to discuss later) and finally in terms of moving the ball. 

Sure, the team was taking risks defensively by playing a higher line, but by virtue of pressing higher, the team became more compact and, therefore, was able to move York United around more effectively and create space through quick passing, switching sides and making overlapping runs. Sure, the final ball was still slightly off, but for the first time this season the Wanderers created some opportunities themselves instead of relying upon turnovers and mistakes from the opposition.

This effort paid off as Massimo Ferrin slipped a ball through and Ryan Telfer was able to get onto the end of it through sheer effort, bagging one against his former side.

This goal left the Wanderers with eight minutes plus stoppage time to find a tying goal that could be monumental in pulling this season out of the deep, dark depths of failure. The Wanderers pushed with all of their might, creating multiple chances. Some of them were clear-cut, others that could be described as a mass scramble. Still, as the story has been all season, the net would not bulge for the East Coast club. 

The final whistle blew 2-1 for York United, the Wanderers losing five of their first six league games. I know that is difficult reading, but maybe we found something in this game. Patrice has led us to success before, surely he can do it twice. After the match against Valour, I was not preaching patience, and after the first half of this game against York, I held the same tune, but in that final 20-25 minutes, compactness felt like a golden ticket. 

Standings:

W/D/L: 0/1/5 (1 Point)

With the loss, the Wanderers stay put at the bottom of the table. Right now they are nine points out of a playoff spot, although if they win their next game, they would only be six points down, having played the same amount of matches as York and Cavalry.

Milestones:

No significant milestones were reached in this match for the Wanderers.

Next Match:

The Wanderers have to wait till June 2 for their next league match as they will take on Atletico Ottawa, who will be coming off of short rest after their Canadian Championship second leg match against Pacific FC. The match will occur at 3PM AST at TD Place in Ottawa. 

Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques

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