Smyrniotis targets finishing issues as Forge’s 4-match gauntlet ends vs. Pacific

Forge FC finish off a testing four-game run and will play on two days of rest at The Island Games when they face Pacific FC on Saturday.

It’s a gruelling stretch that, despite its stresses, has found coach Bobby Smyrniotis in a good position: A win and two draws has the reigning league champions on pace for a top-four spot and a berth in the second round of the CPL regular season.

“We’re Forge, apparently we get everything going our way,” Smyrniotis said dryly. “It appears this is a case where things don’t go our way.

“It’s four games in nine days, two of which without any advanced scouting. Two of our opponents – Halifax and Pacific – are coming off three days of rest as opposed to our two.

“It’s tough, but that’s what we’re here to do. There are no trophies in this first round between first, second, third or fourth.”

RELATED READING: Wanderers go stride-for-stride with Forge in entertaining draw at Island Games

Forge’s point total was boosted Wednesday in a 1-1 draw with HFX Wanderers FC. Forge bossed the Wanderers, if you ask Smyrniotis, who openly questioned’s recounting of the match during a pre-match media conference Friday morning.

“Pace of the game was good – we created six great fantastic opportunities in the final third and they don’t go in,” Smryniotis said. “If [Paolo Sabak’s open net opportunity] goes in, we’re the best team in the league.

“I think if you look at the game, we moved the ball around quickly, and we’ve done a lot to get the ball into the final third. On a usual day, on those six chances, we’d score one or two more goals.”

HFX Wanderers defender Peter Schaale and Forge FC attacker Marcel Zajac. (CPL/Chant Photography)
HFX Wanderers defender Peter Schaale and Forge FC attacker Marcel Zajac. (CPL/Chant Photography)

In the end, an Akeem Garcia goal against the run of play gave the Wanderers a result – and equalled things out following a controversial penalty call that aided Forge in the first half. While Smyrniotis’ group did out-possess and out-work the Wanderers over 90 minutes, HFX had their moments, specifically in the first half when they put a short-rested Forge side to task.

“Not taking anything away from Halifax – they’re going to be a really good team here on PEI,” Smyrniotis conceded.

If anything, Wanderers boosters and Smyrnitois can agree that a lack of finishing in front of goal was an important aspect of Wednesday’s draw – and most matches at the Island Games.

You could attribute that to the short rest – as Forge regulars Kadell Thomas, Sabak, and Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson all failed to convert quality chances – but Smyrniotis points to a lack of pre-season matches and preparation: Eight of the 26 goals from PEI, including Sabak’s on Wednesday, have come from the penalty spot. Toss in goals from free kicks and corners, and that set-piece total nears almost half of all goes scored.

RELATED READING: Missed shots haunt Forge FC as they struggle to solve HFX Wanderers

“The one thing we’ve seen in this season is finishing hasn’t been the sharpest. It’s something we’re seeing that’s common when you look at how many goals come from set-pieces or penalties, though those chances can be created by getting into dangerous parts of the field,” Smyrniotis stated.

“When you haven’t played games… It’s easy to move the ball around, sure, but the hardest thing to do in this game is score goals.

“But, to be honest, we at Forge need to be sharper in the final third of the field.”

As for Pacific, Smyrniotis sees a side similar to the one Forge beat three times in 2019. New coach Pa-Modou Kah has led the Tridents to back-to-back draws against the Wanderers and York9 FC in PEI. We’d say PFC were good value for their results and, from what we can tell, Smyrniotis agrees.

“They’re a team that likes to play, a team that wants to keep possession, but they’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with playing direct and switching the points of attack,” Smyrniotis said.

“We’re happy we’ve been able to watch them for two games, something we haven’t had the chance to for our other opponents.”

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