When you play the team ranked last in your division, you expect to take full points, even if they have been undefeated at home. After an early scare put into them by the Cataraqui Clippers, the Woodbridge Strikers did just that by coming back to claim all three points with a 3-1 win to take home on the bus for the holiday weekend.
The Clippers started the game off quickly, getting an early corner, leading to a header just over the bar by Stuart Heath. The Strikers took the ball to the other end, won a corner, and had the same result. Moments later, a mistake by the Strikers in their midfield led to a long through ball putting Omolade Ogunsanya through alone on goal. He put his shot low and hard to the far post, past Michael Scavone, to score his first League1 Ontario goal in his first start, and to give the Clippers a surprise 1-0 lead in the sixth minute of play.
Once the goal was scored, both teams began trading minor fouls, mostly near the middle of the field, and nobody was able to get much penetration in their opponent's final third. Each time there was an opportunity to do so, the defense of either team stepped-in and double-teamed the attackers; too often, the final touch and/ or pass failed to find the mark.
The best chance came in the twenty-sixth minute as the Striker put a corner in that was headed downwards at the back post, but Thomas Daechsel got his hands to it and corralled the ball before Viktor Anastasov could poke the ball home. That wasn't the case five minutes later when another Strikers' corner led to a ball hitting the post. The rebound fell nicely for the Strikers, but their follow-up shot hit the other post. The final rebound fell right to Anastasov's feet and he made no mistake putting the ball into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
With the game being tied up, Clippers changed their formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a more attacking 4-3-3 style, while the Strikers stuck with a classic 4-4-2, with one midfielder sitting in behind the other three. The formation change led to Jason Massie getting a good chance for the Clippers, as he fired a low and hard shot through a forest of legs; still, Scavone was able to see and collect comfortably.
As halftime approached, the game began to get rougher with an incident between Julian Uccello and Massie causing both teams to get very heated. Shortly after, the first caution of the game went to Stephen Almeida for a hard tackle near the halfway line at the forty-first minute, and four minutes later Heath joined him in the book just as the halftime whistle went.
The second half began after a shortened break, and as a swarm of mosquitos descended on the field Clippers prepped Jonathan Zelt as a substitute to replace Massie, who had been labouring since Uccello's tackle. As the change was about to be made, Heath went down in the Clippers' area and Oliver Coren fouled Andrew Derayeh about thirty yards upfield. The play was stopped to tend to both injuries and, in the confusion, Coren was shown a caution for his foul, something missed by most everyone at the field.
Once the confusion cleared and the change made, the Strikers began to step-up their game and control the play, getting a few good chances, including one by the goalscorer Anastasov that went untouched across the face of goal in the fifty-fifth. In an effort to regain control of the game, the Clippers made their second change, bringing on James Tennant for their goalscorer Ogunsanya in the fifty-ninth minute. The change paid off almost immediately as the ball came to Timothy Campos, who fired in a laser beam strike that had to be parried by Scavone.
In the sixty-sixth, the Strikers began to switch around their team, bringing Anastasov off for Nicholas Chiarot, a change that almost backfired when a free kick was floated-in by the Clippers, poorly parried away by Scavone, and the Strikers were fortunate that Heath's follow-up shot skewed off a defender wide of the net, allowing Scavone to collect the ball.
In the seventy-fourth, the Strikers made their second change, replacing Ernesto Gaita with Luca Baldassarre, and within thirty seconds they had taken the lead as Mario Kovacevic scored with a shot just out of the reach of Daechsel into the side of the net.
The Clippers responded by pushing Heath forward out of the defense, adapting their formation into a 3-4-3, but were struggling to gain control of the game without the influence of Massie in the centre of midfield.
A flurry of action came around the eighty-fifth minute, with Franco Lo Presti being cautioned, followed by the Strikers' third change (Kishon Ross replaced Oscar Cordon), and then a fantastic chance for the Clippers' Tommy Hong, as he hit a strike just wide of an empty back post when a corner somehow found him through a mass of bodies.
As the game wound up, the Strikers made a final change (Philip Balke replacing Uccello) and a resulting formation change to a 4-5-1 to continue to dominate the midfield. Pressure on the Clippers' defense due to the pressing by the Strikers led to a mistake between Coren and Daechsel at the back, and Balke scored a gift goal - the Strikers' third goal of the game. Regular time had expired, to confirm the first home defeat for the Cataraqui Clippers.
After the game, Strikers' coach Peter Pinizzotto was disappointed in his squad's slow start to the game, but felt that his team slowly began to dominate the game with the second half pressure and that they deserved the win. He said that his players "always believed that they could win - we discussed that at halftime - and the boys put in the extra effort."
Chris Eveleigh of the Clippers pointed out that "those lads, those thirteen lads that played tonight, they're the ones that are constantly at training, they're the ones that are constantly at games, so they deserved to play, and made the Clippers proud and the league proud."