On Sunday, August 28th, the Wallaceburg Sting travelled down to Strathroy to take on Middlesex, a team in its first season at the Premier division. Despite neither team being a contender atop the standings, the game still took on significant meaning, with both teams fighting to avoid relegation from the WOSL’s Premier division.
As the game began, Wallaceburg got off to a shaky start before settling down and playing their game. Middlesex was the first team to generate any type of scoring chance, nearly finding the scoreboard when a driving shot from 25 yards out rung off the left post. The Sting straightened things out and began to generate chances of their own, but none found the back of the net. Whether it was a header sailing overtop the crossbar, a shot missing wide or a defender stepping in front of their shooting attempt at the last moment, the Sting went into the halftime at a scoreless draw.
The second half saw more of the same, with both teams exchanging quality scoring chances. On a couple occasions, a loose balls ended up sitting dangerously inside the Sting’s penalty area. As player’s tried to communicate who should play the ball & who should hold their defensive positioning, it was an uneasy several seconds, until a Sting player finally got his foot on a clearing attempt. Middlesex even saw a late crossing attempt deflect off the lone Sting defender towards his own goal, but fortunately for the visiting Sting, it ricocheted over the net rather than on goal. Wallaceburg, desperately needing a victory to try and close the 7-point cushion Middlesex held in the standings, continued pressing, seeking a late go ahead goal. Despite generating some scoring chances, the final whistle sounded with a 0-0 draw between the two clubs.
Next up, Wallaceburg travelled to take on the second-seeded London Benfica squad, a team Wallaceburg previously tied 1-1 at home when Benfica found the net with only minutes remaining.
The game got off to an uncertain start, when both teams broke their huddle along the sideline to take the field and lightning stuck. A 30 minute delay, by rule, was enforced on the kickoff to see if the weather would cooperate and clear – which it did. Both team gathered onto the soggy field, fortunate the rain let up and puddles were not prevalent on the pitch. Benfica controlled the game early on as you would expect one of the top teams to do, but it didn’t last long. Despite being outplayed early on, Wallaceburg’s Roberto Attardi buried a quick strike from outside the 18-yard box, shocking the Benfican counterparts. This seemed to be a turning point in the game, settling the Sting down and giving them the confidence they needed. Afterward, Wallaceburg took control of the match, maintaining ball possession with crisp passes up and down the wings. The Sting’s Matt Feddes also buried what seemed to be a second goal & hit a post during the first half, but both plays were called back because of a questionably close offside call from the linesman. The Sting went into the half with a 1-0 lead.
Second half play stayed much the same, in terms of both ball control and refereeing. Wallaceburg had yet another goal called back due to another offside call in the early goings of the second half when Colin McArthur sent a ball into the top left corner of the net. With officiating clearly not on their side, frustration began to mount for the Wallaceburg squad.
Midway through the second half a breakdown led to a Benfica player breaking free down the right wing toward the Sting net. As the Wallaceburg keeper challenged the attacker, he touched the ball past the goalie toward the net. Sting defender’s hustled to clear the slow rolling ball as it neared the net, but the sliding Sting defender saw the ball roll overtop his leg as he tried to clear it off the goalline.
But the Sting weren’t done yet. Wallaceburg’s Colin McArthur broke through, down the right wing line, on a nicely timed run. Nearing a closing defender, he cut high and cracked a left footed shot toward the bottom left corner of the net. The goalie got a piece of it but it wasn’t enough to stop its momentum. The ball, still rolling with enough momentum to cross the line, was touched in by a second Sting attacker, giving what seemed to be the go-ahead goal to the Sting. However, the linesman, yet again, put his flag up for an offside call, leaving the entire Sting team in disbelief. A team that had only scored 8 goals in their previous 14 games, had seen 3 goals called back in a single game!
Questionable calls continued throughout the game. Fouls would be called against the Sting when it seemed it was the other way around. A ball last touched by Benfica before it went out of bounds would be given to them for a corner kick. A throw in by the Sting would be blown dead because a Benfican player was down injured behind the play – yet able to get up just fine once play was halted.
While in extra time, Benfica broke down the left wing, and passed it into the middle to an open attacker just atop the 18-yard box. The Benfican player made no mistake, curling it into the bottom right corner. The Sting’s keeper got a finger on the ball but it wasn’t enough to deter its course. Benfica had scored to go-ahead 2-1. The fact the referee allowed play to continue long enough for Benfica to score the go-ahead goal set the Wallaceburg team into a frenzy. Player’s and coach were irate! One Wallaceburg player was shown a direct red as a result of the verbal abuse he spouted off at the ref. To put the final nail in the coffin, as soon as the Sting forward touched the ball in at midfield to resume play, the referee blew the games final whistle, further stoking the out-of-control fire he had created. The Sting team exited the pitch furious with what had transpired and in shock a game they thoroughly dominated and deserved to win had been taken away from them by the referee. The further justify the Sting’s belief, the Benfica manager came into the Sting locker room after the game, acknowledged Wallaceburg deserved to win the game & apologized for the game’s refereeing.
Wallaceburg next travels on Saturday, September 10th to take on the 9th place, London Portuguese, a team the Sting are competing with to avoid relegation.