St. Marys Juggernauts started their WOSL First Division season off right with a 2-1 home victory over Tillsonburg FC in an exciting game at the DCVI pitch last Friday night.
“We worked very hard, but made it tense at the end by giving up a late goal. But we got through it . . . just,” Juggernauts’ coach John Flanagan remarked.
Before the game, the St. Marys line-up was a question mark as several players became unavailable due to injury and work. This being the Juggernauts’ first competitive outing in the season campaign, it had coaches Flanagan and Gord Moylan working hard to get the team balance just right.
Perhaps the biggest change was in central midfield where Sjoerd DeWit was out and Evan Doupe was slotted in to fill the key role.
Juggernauts got off to a good start, with striker Kevin Thompson being the star of the first half. Thompson was particularly effective as he battled well for possession, using the ball intelligently when he invariably won it creating several good cracks on the Tillsonburg net.
The visitors did have the major share of the ball in the opening half. St. Marys was a bit off with the passing and movement of the ball and not being able to retain ownership of the ball certainly required the defensive side of the game to excel.
Although Derek Hartman, Tyler Orchard, Harm Vosters and Doupe had more defending to do, Tillsonburg could not take advantage of their possessions.
“Our midfield players—James Flanagan, Korey Graham, Mike Luna, Angus Moylan and Mike Weersink—did a great job of tracking back and not letting the skilled Tillsonburg side have any time to pick out a pass and if they shot, the back-line blocked it out,” coach Moylan noted.
All the work by both teams left each side at the half-time break knowing a win was in the cards for one of them.
Decision to stay patient
The speech at half-time was simple. Flanagan and Moylan decided to stay the course and not to open the game up. Juggernauts were playing well defensively and would wait for their scoring chances, which they knew would come available.
“The teams are evenly matched,” Flanagan said. “The winner will be decided by who works the hardest and takes advantage of their chances. We dealt with the first 45 minutes well and now that we have the season-opening jitters behind us, we need to go out and put our stamp on the game and take advantage of being at home,” was the demand Flanagan delivered to his charges.
Juggernauts provided a spine-tingling display as they continued to defend well, but then pushed forward smartly with some wonderful passing and running to the delight of the home-town fans.
The pressure was building, which created a corner kick. With the 18-yard box full of players, James Flanagan sent a glorious cross to the far side of the box out of the reach of the Tillsonburg keeper. Central defender Harm Vosters made no mistake as he jumped high to power a well-placed header for the opening goal.
Both sides continued to push the pace of the match, with St. Marys creating the better scoring chances due to the fine play of Moylan and Weersink in the central midfield.
“No doubt, the boys had their hands full against two very good Tillsonburg counterparts,” pointed out coach Flanagan. “One player had played for Canada’s U-20 and U-23 squads and is currently signed by London FC of the United Soccer League which is a development league for teams such as Toronto FC.”
Juggernauts looked to have another goal as strikers Evin Murray and Darryl Thompson combined for a quick passing play, which found Weersink one-on-one with the keeper. However, the one-time volley was well saved.
Team play results in winner
Shortly after, outstanding team play resulted in what proved to be the winning goal. Weersink picked up a loose ball and quickly found Moylan tucked nicely in a seam in the FC zone. Moylan quickly realized Thompson was one-on-one with a defender and laced a long ball his way. Thompson then displayed his power as he won the challenge with the defender and placed a header off the far post for a terrific finish and a 2-0 lead.
Juggernauts then went more defensive by adding a player to the midfield and had the strikers run any offensive challenges their way. Kene Mills had to play the destroyer roll to break up the initial pass. He did a great job with his big body presence and created the need for Tillsonburg to rush the play.
But as sometimes happens with a big guy, Mills gets a call against him that others would not. Tillsonburg eventually was awarded a free kick at the top of the box and made no mistake on a well-struck, curving shot that keeper John Stuart was not going to stop.
With five minutes left to play, the nerves of everyone was on edge as Tillsonburg rolled forward, risking the counter-attack in an attempt to get a draw.
“The team looked mature on the pitch, but individually there was some nervousness. Usually we have a Woolfy’s Player-of-the-Match, but today we gave it out to the backline and keeper Stuart. They sorted things out against a good squad and delivered a defensive gem,” beamed coach Flanagan.
Upcoming: Juggernauts travel to London this Saturday to play London Bosnia at the Polish Club at 5 p.m.
The team also plays at the DCVI field next Tuesday, June 14 against London Scottish, starting at 8 p.m.