Wanderers reeling from penalty heartbreak vs. Forge: ‘We lost a bit of composure’

HFX Wanderers FC coach Stephen Hart spoke after his team’s infuriating 1-1 draw with Forge FC with patience and calmness.

But, deep down, c’mon – we know how you really feel.

In arguably the most contentious penalty decision of The Island Games, HFX defender Jake Ruby was called for a handball inside the 18-yard box while blocking a cross. Replays showed the fullback’s arm was firmly to his side. Forge’s Paolo Sabak stepped up and converted to even the score at 1-1.

“Things don’t come back – the game’s over, the call was made and you can’t go back in time to play the game,” Hart told reporters after the game.

“At the end of the day I’m pleased.”

The referee’s decision completely changed the match, and helped to negate HFX’s brilliant early performance – highlighted by a goal from Akeem Garcia. It also played an emotional toll for the players on the pitch.

“I can’t blame the players but I think they got tied up emotionally,” Hart said. “They started to feel like things weren’t on their side. We lost a bit of composure, and that’s something we have to work on.”

The attacking duo of Garcia and João Morelli proved too much for Forge from the start, swarming the CPL champs and grabbing a second-minute goal. Garcia grabbed his season-leading fifth goal with a brilliant outside–of-the-boot finish.

“I thought it was a situation, early in the match, we were controlling very well,” Hart said. “We saw players were executing exactly how we wanted them to and we gave them a timeframe to do it in.

“Luckily we got two opportunities and a goal out of it.”

RELATED READING: Smyrniotis commends Forge’s recovery after early missteps vs. HFX

Garcia was crucial in that snappy, pick-up-the-scraps play, snatching at those two early chances as he passed the 500 minutes played mark in little under a month in Prince Edward Island.

“For me, I didn’t come into the game tired at all,” Garcia said after the match. “The press has been working well for us, we got the goal today.”

Winger Daniel Kinumbe made his second start for the Wanderers – his first was against Forge in the first round– reappearing as a left winger.

“We knew he hasn’t played games since he went down with an injury… I told him what I wanted and he did well at it to a point, since he wasn’t match fit,” Hart said.

Hart made a rare three-way swap in the second half, opting to bring on Mateo Restrepo, Abou Sissoko, and Alex Marshall. The move, Hart explained, targeted Forge’s wings and brought to life Halifax’s last half-hour surge.

“We were looking for a different kind of energy and got a different scenario where we have more penetration out wide,” Hart said. “Morelli was in the same spot as Daniel, he was dying a bit. so we put Rampersad in the no. 10 and I thought we were getting back into the game from there.”

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