Highlanders conclude season with historic friendly versus Rangers

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Highlanders conclude season with historic friendly versus Rangers

(Photo: Armando Tura/APShutter.com)

VICTORIA – Victoria Highlanders FC finished their 2014 campaign in front of an ecstatic crowd of 5,735 as they played host to Scotland’s Rangers FC, eventually conceding a 2-1 defeat despite an inspired 90 minutes of play. Cam Hundal registered the lone Highlanders goal, while Calum Gallagher and Nicky Clark posted goals for Rangers FC.

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Pristine weather greeted both sides in the match that featured an entrance for the ages, with skydivers arriving with game ball in hand to Gerri Halliwell’s ‘It’s Raining Men’. The atmosphere was electric as play got underway in the largest sporting event in Victoria since the U-20 World Cup in 2006.

Early jump from the visiting Rangers side paid off just 10 minutes in, as Gallagher put in a feed from teammate Ian Black from close range to put his side up a goal early.

A threat on offence throughout the match, Hundal continued his strong play of late and notched the equalizer for the home team just two minutes later. Receiving a through-ball, Hundal shook off his mark before firing a low strike to the near side on Rangers ‘keeper Steve Simonsen.

Hundal continued to impress the standing-room-only crowd at Centennial Stadium, showing off his footwork on twenty minutes but unable to generate additional results on the scoreboard. A Highlanders corner at 26 minutes earned Victoria some attacking zone pressure, with an eventual strike from defender Gavin Barrett sailing high.

Rangers regained the lead in the 29th minute, as a hard strike from Gallagher was stopped by starting Victoria ‘keeper Elliot Mitrou, before Nicky Clark pounced on the rebound and managed to slide it into the net off a great second effort while laying outstretched on the pitch.

The Highlanders continued to press for the equalizer into the second half, where they were in largely in control of possession. Wrapping up his season where he played five years as a UVic Vike, left back Andrew Ravenhill showed his physicality at both sides of the pitch as he placed hard challenges on the opposition.

A near-break for the Highlanders drew cheers from the crowd as Jordie Hughes and teammate Carlo Basso attempted a give-and-go, but the Rangers back line was able to deflect the ball out of harms way to preserve their lead heading into the latter stretch of the half.

Additional close calls for Victoria came in the form of midfielder Alex Rowley striking a powerful volley from just outside the 18-yard-box that sailed just inches above the crossbar, while a Basso strike 10 yards out also rolled just wide.

Second half substitute ‘keeper Brandon Watson provided the Highlanders with several key saves through the latter stretch of the game, including a stop on a hard, sharp-angled-strike from David Templeton at 70 minutes.

A strong second half from Victoria would ultimately come up short as Rangers improved their North American tour record to 2-1-0. The friendly was the final match for the Highlanders men’s first team, with several players now preparing for their upcoming CIS, NCAA and VISL soccer seasons. The Rangers head to Ottawa for their final stop against the Fury before returning to Scotland in anticipation of their upcoming Scottish Professional League season.

Tickets for the Highlanders 2015 Premier Development League campaign will go on sale shortly, with additional information available at www.highlandersfc.ca.

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