‘We didn’t manage the game’: HFX’s Hart demands more despite advancing

HALIFAX – Even without scoring a goal and suffering a loss in the second leg, HFX Wanderers FC managed to squeak past Vaughan Azzurri of League1 Ontario and onto the second round of the 2019 Canadian Championship.

And, while this is a results-based industry, HFX head coach Stephen Hart was none too pleased by his side’s showing.

“We did marginally better in the second half but to be honest, if the game had played 140-150 minutes, we still didn’t look like we were going to score a goal,” Hart told the media after the 1-0 second-leg loss at the Wanderers Grounds.

The coach expressed frustration with not getting a shot on target until the second half. By the end of stoppage time, the Wanderers had two shots on target out of six attempts.

“We’ve gotten the offensive chances in games (but) we have failed to put them away,” said Hart of a team that has struggled to find the back of the net.

Between the Spring portion of the 2019 CPL season and the Canadian Championship, the Wanderers have failed to score in three of five games — all losses.

“When we got the ball forward to our attacking players, they were isolated from the group because we were showing the team so much respect by playing so deep.”

One of the better performances of the night came from midfielder Mohamed Kourouma, who led the Wanderers with three shots, including one of those elusive shots on target.

“It was a hard game. We didn’t play like we were supposed to, like we usually play. You have some games like this but we did enough to pass,” Kourouma told after the match.

“Obviously we know when we play our football, we are hard to beat. When we start playing like we played the past two games, it’s going to be hard to win. We just have to fight and play our football basically.”

HFX jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against Vaughan in the first leg away from home, but conceded two second half goals. A penalty goal in extra time by Kourouma turned out to be crucial in the 3-3 aggregate scoreline, with away goals giving HFX the slimmest of advantages … and, ultimately, the edge over Azzurri.

“I don’t want to make any excuses. We didn’t manage the game in any way, shape or form,” Hart said.

“Our game plan was to try and keep the ball for long periods knowing they would have to come forward and we did not do that, we did not do that very well at all.”

While Hart wasn’t talking about goal-scoring specifically, he did point out the problems in the game came down to the basics.

“You can forget about everything in the game if you are not doing the simple things, passing — taking it and passing and utilizing the time on the ball.”

The next Canadian Championship game for the Wanderers is on June 5 when Valour hosts the first leg of the tournament’s Qualifying Round 2.

“I’m not going to worry about that for the moment,” Hart said of that matchup, adding that he has to worry about travelling to play Cavalry FC on Saturday in league action, first and foremost.

Despite the scoring challenges, HFX remain optimistic ahead of a tough match. Cavalry FC leads the league with 12 points and have won all four of its league fixtures.

“We know Calgary’s going to be a tough game, they are a really good team, they’re tough. We have to be ready for the challenge. If we play like we usually play, chances will come, we’ll score some goals,” said Kourouma.