Tough Weekend as the PCSL Playoff Race Warms Up

Tigers 3-2 Okanagan FC

The Okanagan FC PCSL team started a tough back-to-back weekend with an away match to FC Tigers, who are now top of the division with 23 points.

OFC’s leading scorer, Randy Hubber, almost got the visitors off to the perfect start… only to be denied by a string of solid saves by the Tigers’ goalkeeper. OFC were off to a bright start, but weren’t able to take their chances.

Tigers grew into the game midway through the first half, and moved the ball well. Showing the quality that now has them on top of the table. OFC’s defence held strong, but was eventually broken in spectacular fashion, when Tigers’ central midfielder blasted a shot into the top corner from 30 yards.

Despite their strong second half record this season, OFC quickly found themselves 3-0 down with two lapses of concentration soon after the break. Tigers’ forwards were clinical with their finishing, leaving OFC keeper Carson Murray little chance with any of the goals.

Character is shown in these moments though, as Okanagan FC piled on late pressure in the last 15 minutes. The team relentlessly attacked until the final whistle, never giving up on the result. They were rewarded with a goal from Shaun Pilcher, and then a second in the 89th minute from Christian Artavia. Both goals coming as a result of quality crosses from the left wing.

In the final moments, OFC pressed hard for the equalizer, hitting the bar and carving out a clear breakaway opportunity … but the Tigers’ keeper held strong and the final result was a 3-2 defeat for OFC on the road.

Okanagan FC 1-3 Khalsa Sporting Club

Sunday saw OFC host Khalsa Sporting Club, the PCSL’s current League and Playoff Champion. The teams had met just one week earlier, with OFC winning 2-0 on the road.

The hosts started quickly, feeding from the energy of the home crowd (400) at the Apple Bowl. A couple of early attempts could definitely have been converted, one header from winger Christian Artavia missed by inches.

Against the run of play, Khalsa scored a fantastic free kick from 30 yards out. The ball whipped over the wall and kissed the post on its way in… 1-0.

OFC responded positively to this goal however, and substitute Alex Thompson had soon won the hosts a penalty with some excellent work down the right wing. Despite scoring one the previous weekend, the Khalsa goalkeeper made a good save to his bottom right to deny Alex the equalizer.

The equalizer would come though, from a Markus Roth free kick just before half time. From right on the edge of the box, The German midfielder curled the ball around the wall and beat the goalkeeper to his bottom left, a tremendous strike!

Khalsa were much more threatening in the second half, and their striker capitalized twice with fantastic finishes into the top left corner of the Okanagan net. With a 2 goal deficit and 15 minutes to play, it wasn’t looking good for OFC.

Once again, Okanagan never gave up on the match… Brandon McCallum and Fabrice Fanfani both hit the woodwork in the second half, the finishing touch was all that was missing for the home team.

Overall though, two very competitive and hard-fought games against quality opponents for Okanagan FC… and a fantastic crowd in the stadium who had a great time, watching some quality local soccer – the club now sit 2 points behind local rivals Kamloops Wolfpack in the race for playoffs. The two teams meet each other, in what will be a crucial match this Saturday July 13 at the Apple Bowl. The team have 2 home back-to-back weekends left, all games against the current top 4, come out and support!

Okanagan FC vs Kamloops Wolfpack – Saturday, July 13th – 4:00 – Apple Bowl

Okanagan FC vs Victoria Highlanders – Sunday July 14th – 12:00 – Apple Bowl

Okanagan FC vs Surrey United – Saturday July 20th – 4:00 – Apple Bowl

Okanagan FC vs FC Tigers – Sunday July 21st – 1:00 – Apple Bowl

 

Huge Wins on the Road for Okanagan FC

When the PCSL fixture list was released at the start of the year, this looked like a very difficult mid season road trip for the new Okanagan FC PCSL team….back to back away matches with powerhouse club, and top of the league Surrey Utd, followed by current PCSL league champions Khalsa Sporting Club.

Surrey United  0-1  Okanagan FC

OFC were struggling with injuries going into this game, but that was not at all noticeable as the match kicked off and OFC immediately went on the offensive, controlling possession of the ball for long periods and coming close to scoring on several occasions. The opening half hour followed the same pattern, and Surrey were definitely taken aback by the quality of the OFC team. Tempers became frayed as the home side failed to get a grip on the game and, towards the end of the first half, the match developed into a more scrappy affair. OFC lost their rhythm a bit and, having failed to take advantage of their good start, found themselves suddenly under pressure as Surrey looked to make use of one of a number of free kicks conceded around the edge of the box. OFC were thankful to hear the HT whistle and were able to regroup during the interval.

The second half was very even, and continued to be a bad tempered match…there was nothing to choose between the two teams, and it became apparent that a single goal would be enough to settle the game. The breakthrough came on 55 minutes when Alex Thompson got the wrong side of his defender and drove past him, drawing a clumsy challenge from the Surrey player….the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and it was Thompson himself who stepped confidently up and drilled home the penalty.

Surrey tried in vain to get the equalizer…the OFC back four stayed solid and centre backs Sam McDonald and Shaun Pilcher were in no mood to let go of a precious lead in a very important match. Full time came and OFC celebrated what looked like an unlikely 3 points.

Khalsa Sporting Club  0-2  Okanagan FC

On Sunday, OFC travelled to New Westminster to take on Khalsa in another difficult game. Khalsa started the match very brightly and OFC were on the back foot for most of the first half. Once again though, the Okanagan back line stood firm, with goalkeeper Harry Butler behind them in great form. Like the previous day, the visitors were glad to hear the half time whistle and be able to regroup and make some changes.

The second half was completely different, with OFC looking much better organized and more dangerous in attack. The game turned into a real back and forth match between two good teams playing nice soccer. The better goalscoring chances were falling to OFC, however, and they were looking the more likely team to break the deadlock.

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Pacey winger Christian Artavia was causing the home defence a lot of issues, and it was him who opened the scoring in the 77th minute, beating the keeper from close range. Khalsa immediately went on all out offensive, looking to tie the game up. Three minutes into stoppage time, the hosts threw everybody including the keeper into the OFC box for a corner. Goalkeeper Harry Butler topped off a fine performance by catching the ball under severe pressure and launching it down the other end to set striker Randy Hubber up for a breakaway goal, which he netted in style. Final score 2-0 to the visitors.

A fantastic weekend for OFC….extending their unbeaten run to 5 matches as we move into the second half of the season, and moving into the playoff places

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OFC Frustrated by Mid Isle in PCSL

Okanagan FC  0-0  Mid Isle Mariners

OFC were frustrated by a stubborn Mid Isle Mariners visiting team in PCSL action at The Apple Bowl on Saturday. Played on a scorching hot, typical Kelowna afternoon, the game quickly developed a pattern of OFC pressure met by stubborn Mid Isle defence.

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Once again, the crowd turnout was decent and around 400 people came out to support their new PCSL team. OFC started brightly and went in search of the opening goal straight from kickoff. Several chances went begging and the home team were wasteful in front of the Mid Isle net….striker Alex Thompson missed the best chance of the half, firing wide after good work from Brandon McCallum down the right. OFC twice missed the target from dangerous free kick positions, and the game began to get frustrating for the home team. It seemed like only a matter of time until the opening goal came for OFC, but it was Mid Isle who should have had a penalty towards the end of the first half when their striker was brought down in the box on a breakaway…not given by the referee and a let off for the home team.

The second half followed the same pattern and Mid Isle parked a lot of players behind the ball and looked to settle for a draw. The heat took its toll on both sets of players and OFC struggled to maintain their intensity, most of their best second half opportunities coming from set pieces. Ultimately, the hosts had to settle for a disappointing draw and two home points dropped.

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OFC’s Spencer Young was consoled by Oggie at the end of the game, and it’s onwards to a tricky road trip up next with games back to back at Surrey United and Khalsa Sporting Club.

PCSL Home Opener Success !

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Okanagan FC  2-1  Penticton Pinnacles

OFC opened up their home PCSL campaign with a hard fought win over fierce local rivals Penticton. Played on a beautiful sunny day at The Apple Bowl in front of an excited and enthusiastic crowd of around 600 people, the game produced some great soccer, lots of goalmouth action and incident, and a couple of moments of high drama.

Right from the kickoff the home team indicated their intent to attack the visitors with everything they had, and at every opportunity. OFC were unlucky not to take a very early lead, denied twice by the keeper and once by the woodwork in the opening 5 minutes. Boosted by a great atmosphere inside the stadium, OFC continued to press and create chances, enjoying long periods of possession and getting closer and closer to opening the scoring.

They had the ball in the net on 20 minutes, only for Braden Peters’ effort to be ruled out for offside, a very close call. Finally, on the half hour mark, and after relentless pressure, the breakthrough came when OFC striker Randy Hubber fired home bar down from the edge of the box….a great effort, and a great feeling !

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Penticton would have felt fortunate to go into the half time break at only 1-0 down. The visitors took the opportunity to reorganize and adjust their game plan, and came out for the second half looking much stronger. OFC still were enjoying lots of time with the ball, but their guests started to look more and more dangerous as the game went on, and began to give OFC some nervy moments at the back. The equalizer came on the hour mark, after a spell of PFC pressure….their striker pouncing on a loose ball from close range.

At this point, the game could have gone either way, and both teams went in search of the winning goal as the game opened up and turned into an entertaining end to end match. Randy Hubber twice went close to grabbing the goal that OFC were desperately looking for, only to see his shot fly inches wide on both occasions. However, he was not to be denied, and in the final minutes…just as the game seemed to be heading for a tie…Hubber fired home the winning goal after Spencer Young’s furious effort came back off the bar.OFC-vs-Pinnacles-Home (96 of 132)

Jubilant scenes followed at The Apple Bowl as OFC managed to close out the game and seal the 3 points…a well deserved, if somewhat hard fought, victory over a tough and resilient Penticton team.

Next up is Mid Isle Mariners, from Nanaimo, at The Apple Bowl this coming Saturday, 4pm kick off….OFC will be looking for another good performance and 3 more points, as they go in search of a PCSL playoff spot in their first season in the league.

Pictures courtesy of One10 Photography

 

Okanagan FC Off The Mark in PCSL Island Road Trip

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.

pcsl victoria trip 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.