The Trinity Western Spartans had to work for it, but two late goals against a gritty UNBC Timberwolves gave the Spartans a 2-1 victory on Saturday, September 8th in Prince George, BC.
The strategy to sit in, absorb pressure, and grind out a result was effective for seventy minutes for TWolves coach Steve Simonson and his team, but TWU found a way to get on the board and complete the roadtrip with a victory.
Much of the first half of play saw UNBC protecting the box, and effectively clear the ball out of harm’s way. The Spartans did manage some opportunities, but Timberwolves keeper Rob Goodey was up to the challenge, closing the door.
“I would prefer a game where I don’t make a single save, but as a goalkeeper you do everything you can,” said Goodey. “It wasn’t just me. Everyone in front of me was blocking every shot they could.”
It was the home side that struck first, when fifth-year Conrad Rowlands buried a gorgeous header of a corner kick from Francesco Bartolillo. At halftime, the Spartans were outshooting the TWolves 7-1, but Simonson and his side were satisfied with the resolve and commitment of the UNBC defense.
“They are relentless,” said Spartan midfielder Caleb Johnson postgame. “They just kept coming, no matter what the score was. They have a lot of heart.”
The second half was more of the same through the first twenty minutes. The Spartans controlled much of the possession and had a number of chances, but Goodey was up to the task.
At the 67 minute mark, the visitors got the break they were seeking. A set play off a corner kick found the head of Matthew Roxburgh who beat a stretched-out Goodey to knot the game at one apiece.
“Their movement off the ball is unlike most teams in the country. They are a very good team,” said Goodey. “They were patient, didn’t get frustrated, and that is how they eventually broke us down.”
Just two minutes later, after a hand ball violation was called in the Timberwolves box, Caleb Johnson was awarded a penalty kick. He patiently put the ball just inside the right post, giving the Spartans their first lead of the match. It was the third penalty kick Goodey faced in as many games to open the season.
The TWolves tried to generate offense over the final 20 minutes of the contest, and did create a number of scrambles in the TWU end, but to no avail.
Despite Goodey’s ten saves, the Timberwolves suffer their first loss of the season, moving to 0-1-2 on the year, while the Spartans improve to 2-1-2.
“This is a huge turning point in our season,” said Johnson. “We wanted more points in our first three games, but the two goals in the second half should be a big turning point for our season.”
“We can’t expect every little thing to go our way,” said Goodey. “We have to do everything we can. We are frustrated to not get the win, but every game is a learning opportunity. We lost today, but we come back next week and learn from it.”