‘A matter of time’: Forge’s scoring woes vanish as Novak turns heads

HAMILTON – One of the many prevalent storylines circulating in the days heading into the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural season was about the offensive star-power on offer at Forge FC.

With the likes of Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman in the mix, expectations were certainly high … but after the first two matches of the season, from which Forge managed to procure just a single point, it was almost as if Bobby Smyrniotis’ team was snake-bitten.

Sure, post-game stats showed this team had plenty of promise up front, leading in categories like total shots on goal and possession, despite their less-than-ideal end results. The one stat that had Forge FC fans nervous was the amount of goals scored.

Their minds have likely changed after tonight’s 3-0 performance.

Forge FC put together a dominant outing in front of the Hamilton faithful beating Pacific FC at Tim Hortons Field, with two of those goals coming early for Smyrniotis’ club. Anthony Novak netted his first goal in fine fashion just three minutes in, followed up by Emery Welshman’s dazzling goal in the 14th minute. Giuliano Frano, who was the captain in place of the suspended Bekker, sealed the victory with a header in the 69th minute.

With the outpouring of goals in Forge FC’s latest match, perhaps some of the criticism levelled at the club could be attributed as motivating the team’s forward line. Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis wouldn’t admit that, though.

“I wouldn’t say it’s motivation,” Smyrniotis told reporters after the match. “I think they knew exactly what they were missing and we just kept at it. Some more training sessions and focusing more on the finishing touches and movement in the boxes helped us out tonight.

“It’s also about getting the guys to understand they may only have one chance so they need to be sharp with that, I think it is a good message we had and it clearly came in those first 15 minutes.”

Emery Welshman agreed, affirming that “missing the chances wasn’t the issue” up top.

“Obviously it was frustrating for us and the fans that we weren’t capitalizing, but we just knew it was going to be a matter of time until they started going in for us,” Welshman said. “It would have been a problem if we weren’t creating those chances but we weren’t worried, we didn’t feel any of that pressure.

“We let that stay on the outside and all we had to do was trust our style, coaches and players.”

It was expected that Welshman would score sometime soon, having sniffed around goal and coming close in his last two tilts, but it was former League1 Ontario standout Anthony Novak who surprised many with his early acrobatic effort.

Anthony Novak of Forge FC celebrates his 1st goal vs. Pacific FC. (Photo: Ryan McCullough/CPL).
Anthony Novak of Forge FC celebrates his 1st goal vs. Pacific FC. (Photo: Ryan McCullough/CPL).

Smyrniotis was particularly pleased with Novak’s showing, too: “Here’s a player who brings that tough guy aspect and we thought this would be a good game for him. It is great when a player in his first professional game scores his first goal, it’s great for his confidence.”

The key thing to take away from that quote is “tough guy” – Novak has had quite the road to the Canadian Premier League, and had some encouraging words after his breakout performance in tonights win.

“I like to think I speak for a select group of Canadians who haven’t had the appropriate chance of being a professional, and this league has opened up that chance for us,” Novak said.

“Before I came to Forge and even during preparation for the club, I was working two jobs, as an intemperate coordinator and as a teller for a bank … and I had my application in for the Army.

“But even with the long, hard-fought hours, something like today makes it worth it. Today was a brilliant moment for me.”

Not just brilliant for Novak, but historic for Forge FC and soccer in Hamilton as the city now celebrates its first win in the CPL.