Wanderers impress despite defeat, as they match Cavalry’s pressing game

Playing Cavalry at Cavalry’s game – that was the plan for HFX Wanderers FC on Sunday.

The Wanderers put in a spirited effort against the Finals 2019 contestants but ultimately fell short 2-1.

Coach Stephen Hart put his side on the pitch to chase and press Cavalry whenever possible in an ambitious plan against an unbeaten team known for their own “90 minutes of hell” and smothering pressing play.

“We went in to disrupt their play and win the ball higher up the pitch,” Hart explained.

“Not many teams go in and try to press Cavalry and play higher up the park, and I thought it was something we should try to do and get them on the back foot, maybe get a goal.”

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Hart’s game-plan showed a great belief in his squad, and he was rightfully impressed with how the side handled a cagey 1-1 draw with CPL champions Forge FC at midweek.

A wonder-strike from Nathan Mavila in the 29th minute undid the Wanderers on Sunday, including goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu, who was caught off his line. The curling effort sailed into the net over Beaulieu to give the Cavs a 1-0 lead.

Pressing the Cavs produced several chances for the Wanderers, who swiftly stripped and earned the ball high up the pitch. The Wanderers earned a strange consultation only after going down 2-0 after a goal from Jordan Brown. A handball led to an HFX penalty, which Akeem Garcia converted late in the game.

“We could have played with more aggression in coming underneath and combination play. When we did get the ball, even out wide, we could have been a bit more decisive with it,” Hart admitted about his team, who recorded three shots on target including the penalty.

“We could have pushed the ball faster, shorter, and try to follow it.”

Cavs coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. gave credit to the Wanderers after the match for their pressing game, admitting that his half-time switch to a back-four was to add numbers to counter the midfield industry of Andre Rampersad and Abou Sissoko.

Fullback Mateo Restrepo thought HFX performed well against the Cavs, who went top of the CPL’s first-round standings with the win.

“In the first half they were breaking down our left side and getting me in tough situations in-between positions,” Restrepo said. “Marcus Haber, too, added a hold-up element. It was difficult to press them but, the boys did well and we got some solid opportunities.”

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Restrepo was joined in the backline by Jems Geffrard, Peter Schaale, and Chrisnovic N’sa for the second match in a row.

“The same four went up against Forge, and now Cavalry, I think we had two tough matches and we dealt with them well,” Restrepo said.

“We’ve been developing some good relationships. All the defenders have been building game-by-game.”

Despite the positives, HFX finds themselves without a win at The Island Games – their two points from three matches good enough for joint-fifth.

When asked, Hart hummed and hawed about points and results needed from their next four matches of round one, starting with FC Edmonton on Wednesday.

But, the former Canadian national team coach finally settled on a couple wins and a draw.

“I think we need to get nine points total, so seven more,” Hart admitted.

“If we get that, we’ll be okay.”

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