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T-Birds edge shorthanded Timberwolves 2-1 in Prince George

Photo: Christos Sagiorgis

The University of Northern British Columbia Men’s Soccer team held a lead on the mighty UBC Thunderbirds for 62 minutes, but ended up falling 2-1 to the T-Birds on Friday, September 27 in Prince George.

The home side got off to a fast start, when Joel Watson sprung Stu Rowlands less than two minutes into the match. The veteran forward got around UBC keeper Jason Roberts and buried his fifth goal in just his sixth game, giving the Timberwolves a very early advantage.

“We just couldn’t deal with the ball over the top,” said UBC’s Daniel Kaiser. “We didn’t expect how fast they would come out. We were caught a little flatfooted at first, and they came out firing. It has been a problem for our team, conceding goals early.”

The T-Birds settled in, and were able to apply pressure to the TWolves backline, earning a number of free kicks and corners. In minute 14, Ryan Arthur nearly converted a corner kick, but hit the post behind keeper Daniel Zadravec.

The two sides traded chances in the 36th minute, as UNBC’s Owen Stewart found himself in prime scoring location, and looked to chip Roberts, but put it over the crossbar. Less than a minute later at the other end, Victory Shumbusho had the chance to equalize, but Zadravec made a brilliant stop to maintain the TWolf lead heading into the half.

In the second half, the play became increasingly physical, with a number of fouls going both ways. Off a corner kick in the 63rd minute, Shumbusho was able to get his foot on a corner kick and send it towards goal. Zadravec was able to turn it away, but it bounced off a defender and back towards the net. The first-year netminder again was able to make the save, but the linesman ruled it crossed the goal line, in a controversial decision that was not popular with the home crowd.

Three minutes later, UNBC’s Anthony Preston was charged with a foul, his second of the match, meaning the TWolves would be forced to play a man short for the remaining 25 minutes.

“Our mindset was kick them when they’re down, almost,” said Kaiser. “Just keep going. We were under their skin a little bit, so we had to keep going.”

Just eight minutes later, UBC got the opportunity they were looking for. A Ball was played into the box, where Demian Dron appeared to play the ball away before contact was made with a UBC attacked. The official ruled otherwise, awarding the visitors a penalty kick.

“Guys were frustrated because there were some calls not going our way,” said UNBC’s Joel Watson. “He got ball, the ball went out. I don’t see why he called it.”

Veteran Kerman Pannu stepped up to the spot and beat Zadravec top corner for his first goal of the campaign, making it 2-1 T-Birds.

The Timberwolves would battle to try to create opportunities, despite their shorthanded situation, and nearly found the equalizer in the 88th minute. Stu Rowlands, with a defender on his back, was able to turn and fire, but missed the post by just inches.

“There are many positives. One, we can play with ten men against the very best and still attack and press,” said Timberwolf Jonah Smith. “Two, we can create chances even when we are defending low, and number three, our backline can deal with stress and defend in tough situations.”

When the final whistle sounded, UBC’s victory improved their record to 6-1-1, while the Timberwolves fell to 4-5-1.

“It shows we can play with any team in the league,” said Watson. “Battling with UBC, going down to ten men and still fighting, not giving up too much in the back, really shows our grit and determination.”

The two teams will clash again on Sunday, September 29th, in Prince George.

“It was a good battle tonight, with lots of challenges,” said UBC’s Mackenzie Cole, postgame. “It had good spirit from both sides. I thought it was good. I expect a similar game on Sunday. It should be physical again, and we are ready to go.”

“They just find a way to win. That is what separates the good from the great, and they’re one of the great teams in this league,” said Smith, postgame. “They came out with the result. We need to be more ruthless and find ways to win, like they do.”

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