HALIFAX – It’s not very often that Stephen Hart addresses his HFX Wanderers FC team after a game.
But that’s what he did on Wednesday night after his team once again saw a lead crumble and narrowly miss on pulling off the upset against a first-place Forge FC team, drawing the Hamiltonian outfit 1-1 at Wanderers Grounds after conceding late.
“I just told them, look, the reality is the game isn’t coming back. It’s gone,” Hart said after the 1-1 draw.
“We had enough chances to kill this game off and we didn’t, we didn’t do it.”
It was deja vu for the HFX Wanderers as they hosted Forge. On Sunday, the Wanderers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second half but Forge fought back with two goals. On Wednesday, Akeem Garcia once again scored for the Wanderers but a goal in the 93rd minute from David Edgar once gain ensure Forge left with a point.
Hart used the words disappointing and gutted to describe the loss, referencing both Forge games and an earlier game at home against Edmonton where the Wanderers settled for a 0-0 draw.
The Wanderers coach wasn’t ready to take solace in the fact the last-place Wanderers still managed to get points off the fall leaders. Forge are alone at the top with 25 points thanks to an 11-game unbeaten streak while HFX are three points behind York9 at the bottom.
“It makes it worse. I mean because you’re at the bottom of the table, right? You’re thinking you know, that if things had gone your way, you would have climbed out of there,” said Hart.
“We just have to keep thinking positively in the way we play and keep playing without fear and then hopefully you know fortune changes.”
After the final whistle blew, the HFX Wanderers players were visibly dejected as a number of players knelt on the field at the Wanderers Grounds.
“For me, I think I can talk for the guys, they won’t be happy,” said Elton John, who wore the captain’s armband.
“Heads are going to be down because this is the second time.”
Hart made three substitutions late in the game, including taking off two midfielders and bringing on Chrisnovic N’Sa and Ndzemdzela Langwa — two players who usually play on the backline. Despite a plethora of defensive-minded players on the field, Forge’s strategy of getting the ball into the box paid off in the final moments.
“One bad clearance and they pounced on it. And that’s the the kind of team Forge is, there’s a reason they’re top of the league so we got to concentrate a little more,” said John.
There may be fifteen points between the two teams in the standings, but the Wanderers were able to measure their skill against the hottest team in the CPL and get a sense of how far off they are.
“It’s a situation where they know how to grind out a result. And we’re sort of learning to do that,” said Hart.