Sting Left Winless, but Showing Improvement
On Wednesday, July 27th the Wallaceburg Sting hosted the London Portuguese in a re-scheduled game from earlier in the season. The Sting found themselves up against a team in the bottom of the standings, so this game had the makes of the Sting’s possible first victory. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Despite playing well and controlling play, the Sting again found themselves on the wrong end of some unfortunate events that resulted in two first half goals.
The first came when a Wallaceburg defender blocked the shot of a Portuguese attacker atop the 18-yard box, only to see it ricochet directly to the feet of another Portuguese attacker, who made no mistake in finding the back of the net. Shortly thereafter, the Portuguese drove a low hard shot toward the bottom left of the Sting’s goal. The Sting keeper, Sam Youlton, made a valiant diving save but was unable to hold onto a ball with such pace. With the goalie down, the rebound kicked right into an open area, giving a Portuguese attacker an empty net to shoot at. The Sting’s closest defender made a last ditch effort to prevent a goal from happening by taking down the Portuguese player as he began to make a play on the ball. The foul could easily have resulted in a penalty shot being awarded to the Portuguese and a red card to the Sting defender, but the referee held from blowing his whistle and played the advantage when the collision occurred, as the loose ball bounced back to another Portuguese attacker who placed the ball into the empty net. With the early mishaps and breakdown in defensive coverage, the Sting went into the halftime trailing 2-0 despite feeling they were playing a team they should have been beating.
Perhaps trailing by two made them feel as though they had nothing to lose, but whatever the reasoning, the Sting came out a much more determine, aggressive team in the second half. They continuously pressured on the attack and created scoring chances, giving proof to why they felt they were the better team. Looking to get back in the game, their persistence finally paid off when Phil Nywening, inside the 18-yard box, received a chipped in ball from Colin McArthur. Nywening made a quick turn and made no mistake as he hit a soft volley just inside the right post, cutting the Portuguese lead in half. The Sting weren’t done there, as Brandon Watson made a well-timed run down the right wing and was the beneficiary of being hit on the run with a great pass from Kurtis Lubbers. The keeper left his net, looking to close on the ball and get their before Watson but couldn’t do it. Watson poked the ball past the surging keeper and into the vacated net, tying the game up at 2-2. Despite their efforts for a third and go-ahead goal, the Sting, were unable to capitalize on any further scoring chances but had to nonetheless be pleased with their second half ability to salvage the tie after trailing by two at the half.
Two days later,on Friday, July 29th, the Sting again played at home, hosting London Benfica, a team tied atop the Premier division standings. With such a successful opponent, the Sting fully expected to have their hands full, possibly having to rely on sound defense and showing patience in waiting for an offensive opportunity to develop. However, as the game began, you wouldn’t have known the Sting were on the opposite end of the standings.
The Sting moved the ball around with precision and showed good patience to not force the pass if it wasn’t there. Their forwards were making well-timed runs and were able to stay on-side and break through the Benfican defenders on numerous occasions. The Sting had three breakaways in the first half, with the first being stop by the attacking keeper, and the second hitting the cross bar. It wasn’t until their third attempt, with just under 10 minutes remaining until half, that it finally paid off. Midfield, Mark Foster, broke through alone and chose to deke past the aggressively attacking keeper only to have the keeper take him out at the knees without playing the ball. The vicious collision sent Foster head over heels overtop the goalie and face-first into the hard Kinsmen field. The rebound squirted to an open area the Sting’s Brandon Watson was able to be the first to converge on, where he made no mistake, calmly placing the ball into the back of the now-unoccupied net. The Sting defended well and held a 1-0 lead on the top-ranking opponent at the half.
Despite continued offensive opportunities in the second half, the Sting played a more defensive-minded formation, that seemed to allow more ball control and attacking opportunities for their Benfican counterparts. The second half, thus became a much more balanced affair, but saw Benfica pressing, searching for an equalizer. The Sting, however, thwarted every opportunity by clearing any ball in dangerous territory. The game really had the feel of a first win by the Sting, an ever impressive feat, considering their top seeded opponent. Unfortunately, the Sting’s fortune didn’t last the entire 90 minutes. Late in the game, with no more than 5-10 minutes remaining, a ball was turned over on the Sting’s side of half that saw it get quickly played down the right wing to a streaking Benfica attacker. Despite being angled off by a chasing Sting defender, a blown coverage defensively left another Benfica player wide open as he made a great run down the middle of the field toward the net. The streaking winger sent in a crisp pass across the ground inside the Sting’s 18 yard box that the open central attacker buried without hesitation. And just like that, the game that felt so much like a soon-to-be Sting victory was wiped away and tied 1-1.
The Sting did manage to gather their emotions and forcefully attack in the games dying moments, but a tremendous turn on the defender by Kurtis Lubbers deep inside the Benfica 18-yard box didn’t bring about a score change as his shot sailed high and wide. The final whistle blew with the Sting having to settle for their league-high sixth tie of the season.
The Sting’s current record sits at 0-6-4 (win-ties-losses).
The Sting next play Friday, August 5th at home vs. the Chatham Express at 7pm.