North Toronto Nitros ended their first League1 Ontario season on a high note, beating Durham United FA 3-2 at Kinsmen Park on Friday night.
Jaden Doyle (9', 89') grabbed a brace for the Nitros, while Niba MacDonald (70') chipped in with a third.
"I thought tonight was really poor, but the guys dug deep and in spite of being down a man each, and expecting Durham to get momentum, our boys went right back up there and got the winning goal," said North Toronto assistant coach, Gary Fleming.
In what was also Durham's final match of the season, Shaun Claud Lawson (37') and Josh Parades (85') tallied strikes for the hosts, but it wasn't enough to bring the result they wanted.
"I'm more disappointed for the players [than myself]," said Durham head coach, Sanford Carabin. "We had a good lineup today, we had good players and they were motivated to play. It's just one of those games where we thought, we're going to control it, control it, and then just as it has been all year - it's that counter-attack that we haven't learned to defend."
"It's happened... actually I don't have enough fingers and toes to count," he added.
"But, today, even though they scored their first goal on us quickly off a counter, we just didn't wake up."
Both teams are already looking forward to the off-season, and how to make the necessary tweaks to improve the squads. Carabin indicated the Durham coaching staff will be looking closely at both training regime and personnel.
"Our culture is really an attacking team, so we like to keep the ball and control play, but when you're dealing with guys that don't switch on when we lose it, or not enough of them switch on, then we get countered a lot," he said. "It's something that the coaching staff has talked about and we'll have to work on that [in the off-season], but it may be just the makeup of players that we have."
"We have to have players that are stronger mentally, and can transition and stay focused in the game a little bit longer."
"Having a bit of preseason to work on these things is crucial, because now that we know how we want to play, we know where our weakness is. So as long as we can strengthen them, and reduce the amount of goals we gave up off the counter, I think we'll be better off next year."
Fleming spoke of how happy the North Toronto technical staff was with the performance of the team in their debut League1 Ontario season, finishing no less than third in the east division.
"We're very satisfied with the team over the course of the season, and a lot of lessons learned as well, particularly with all the university players leaving," he explained.
"We figured it was a drop in standard for us, but actually when I look at the records we are seven and one after losing most of our players. I think what that shows is that even our reserve players have good quality there. The standard didn't drop as much as we were thinking it would."
"As a club we have a lot of things to look at in the off-season, we have a relationship with U of T, and a lot of things we learned. It was a very successful season for us," he concluded.
"We were going to be happy to be in mid-table, and we're definitely finishing in third and possibly second given other results. We're very happy with our season."