Wheeldon Jr. saw ‘blatant’ penalty, as Cavs ‘good value’ for draw vs. Forge

On Prince Edward Island time, Cavalry FC’s “90 minutes of hell” feels more like a half-hour.

After a blistering start in opening match of the Island Games, Cavalry ended up splitting points in a 2-2 draw with Forge FC on Thursday night in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

A controversial injury-time penalty gifted Cavalry a share of the spoils, though coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. insisted his team was “good value” to walk away from Match #1 of The Island Games with a point.

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“We’ve worked out some creases, we have a point, and we have goals in the bag,” Wheeldon Jr. told reporters after the game. “We knew there would be momentum changes, you see that in all leagues doing seasons like this around the world, and we experienced that today.”

Cavalry were in complete control to kick off proceedings, partially due their pressing acumen. Wheeldon Jr.’s side looked sure winners early on the first half, pinning as many as 10 Forge players behind the ball at stages, while Dominick Zator nodded home a season-opening goal in the 11th minute.

“When you haven’t played for 10 months, it’s hard to tell if you’ll be able to play our front-foot style,” Wheeldon Jr. said, referring to his side’s smothering first-half performance.

“We didn’t know how long it could last, with how we pressed. I thought our winger and attacking players like Jordan Brown and Oliver worked their socks off.”

As Cavalry’s press wilted – surely due to the team’s lack of pre-season friendlies and match experience due to COVID-19 protocols – Forge took advantage. Kyle Bekker’s diving header in the second half gave the Hamiltonians the lead. Second-half additions of newcomers Marcus Haber and Elliot Simmons saw Cavalry try to reassert control.

A tense second half culminated in a classic case of Forge-Cavalry drama: A Mohamed Farsi shot in injury time went off Forge Forge defender Dominic Samuel’s arm sending Nathan Mavila to the spot where he eventually converted.

While Forge’s Anthony Novak was questioning the fourth official’s midfield positioning on such a crucial call, Wheeldon Jr – who shared a similar touchline view – agreed with the decision.

“From where I was, the lad raised his arm up. I thought it was a blatant penalty,” Wheeldon Jr. said, adding the point was a “massive confidence” boost for his side.

Regardless, the injury-time penalty provided a just result for Cavalry, who blew out of the PEI gate at such high speed.

Speaking with OneSoccer’s Oliver Platt, first-half goalscorer Zator agreed his side played well – especially considering a nearly 300-day stay on professional match experience.

“After ten months, to go out there and show character like that, was incredible,” Zator said.

“You could see it right out if the bat – challenges were flying in – everyone wanted to show they’d get stuck in.”

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