Okanagan FC headed to Vancouver Island this weekend, in what looked to be a very tough road trip indeed, with Saturday and Sunday games with Victoria Highlanders and Mid Isle Mariners respectively.
OFC started at University of Victoria Vikes Stadium with a tough fixture against a Highlanders team who are quickly emerging as the league’s front runners.
Victoria Highlanders 3-0 Okanagan FC
The game started with Highlanders dominating possession, but without creating too much, and OFC showed several flashes of being dangerous on the counter attack. This was the pattern of the match until midway through the half, when the hosts opened the scoring from a poorly defended corner kick. OFC responded well, however, and kept themselves in the match with a combination of resolute defending and occasional counter attacks. Half time 1-0.
The Okanagan team started the second half quite well and had a couple of good chances to equalize…the best of these falling to striker Randy Hubber, who forced the Victoria keeper into a fine one handed save. As the hour mark approached, although still under pressure from an excellent Highlanders team, OFC started to feel like they could perhaps get something from the game…and then the second goal came in unfortunate circumstances, and following another defensive error, as centre back and goalkeeper failed to deal with a loose ball, allowing the Highlanders striker between them for the tap in. Two minutes later, and it was three…Harry Butler in the OFC net given no chance with a top corner curler from the edge of the box.
From this point onwards it was damage control for the deflated Okanagan team, and they managed to pull together to keep the game at 3-0.
Reflecting back on the performance, OFC made too many individual errors under pressure from an excellent opponent. We will hope to do better next time, when we welcome The Highlanders to The Apple Bowl later in the season.
Mid Isle Mariners 1-2 Okanagan FC
OFC showed great resilience to bounce back the following day against a good Mid Isle team at The Merle Logan Complex in Nanaimo. With several knocks and bruises from the previous day, an already light squad was now looking pretty threadbare and “make do” with several players in unfamiliar roles. The players knew the importance of getting off the mark in the league, and defeat in this game would have seen us coming adrift at the foot of the table going into next week’s home opener.
The game did not start well, with OFC continuing where they left off the previous day, with too many wasted opportunities from good positions and too many individual errors being made. The hosts were on the front foot and it was not long before they took the lead with a nice shot from the top of the box. At this point, OFC needed to dig deep and find some courage not to be deflated and collapse, as the opponent went in search of a second all-important goal. Half time 1-0 Mid Isle.
Okanagan changed a couple of things up for the second half and introduced some fresh legs, as they recognized the importance of the next 45 minutes. Straight away, OFC started to impose themselves and enjoy longer periods of possession. Wide midfielders Liam Creek and Braden Peters started to get into good positions and now it was the Mid Isle back line which started to creak. The longer the second half went on, the more OFC were camped in Mid Isle’s half looking for the goal to level the game. However, the Mid Isle goalkeeper produced some fine saves to keep his team in front. Alex Thompson twice, Liam Creek, Randy Hubber, were all denied the equalizer by excellent saves. The ever lively Alex Thompson, having already had a stonewall penalty appeal denied in the first half, was denied again, this time by the linesman’s flag as he eventually beat the keeper, only to see the goal ruled out for offside.
It was starting to look like one of those days when, in the 75th minute the goal finally came. Great work down the left from Braden Peters who found Randy Hubber on the edge of the box. The OFC striker opened up his body and curled the ball past a full stretch Mid Isle keeper to level the match. Okanagan sensed victory, and the hosts were clearly tiring. Within five minutes OFC had the lead….Hubber again stepping up for a great low and hard finish across the keeper from the edge of the box. Mid Isle rallied a little in the final stages of what was an important game for them as well, but it was OFC who held on to secure the first PCSL win and points in the club’s short history.
Other results this weekend showed what a tight division this is going to be, as teams continued to take points from each other. The win from OFC propelled them four places up from the foot of the table, and announced their arrival as genuine PCSL competitors. The Okanagan FC team now looks forward to this weekend’s home opener against local rivals Penticton, where we will be full of renewed confidence and hoping to build on the Mid Isle success.