LANGLEY, British Columbia – For the second night in a row, the Trinity Western men’s soccer dominated possession, earned a clean sheet but waited until the latter stages of the second half to nab the game-winner, as the Spartans won their fourth game in a row, beating Thompson Rivers 1-0 Saturday at Chase Office Field.
Leighton Johnson (Strathmore, Alta.) tallied his first goal of the season in the 73rd minute and goalie Andrew Hicks (Surrey, B.C.), who made four saves, notched his third consecutive shutout as TWU continued its winning ways to start the 2016 campaign.
After a first half that saw both teams generate a few chances, the Spartans took the game over in the second half, putting together a staunch defensive effort before Johnson finally broke through.
“I’m happy with the result, but I think I’ve aged 20 years in the last two nights,” said Spartans coach Mike Shearon. “I don’t know why we keep waiting until the end, but in some ways I’m happy that we keep showing this winning mentality and going out there and getting the games.
“I thought we were by far the better team in the first 20 minutes…but we didn’t put our chances away and it almost came back to bite us. I thought the middle 20 minutes was probably one of the worst sections of game we’ve had all year. At halftime we made a few changes and the guys continued to believe in one another and continued to fight for one another.”
The win keeps the unranked Spartans atop the Pacific Division table. The WolfPack drops to 1-3 on the season. All three of the TRU’s losses have come by just one goal, while the WolfPack’s win was a 4-0 victory against Victoria.
The first half saw the Spartans come out strong, but couldn’t capitalize on a few early chances. The WolfPack pushed back and pressed in the latter stages, but shots from Justin Donaldson and Ryan Glanville were stopped by Hicks.
Johnson nearly put the Spartans up a goal in the 62nd minute, when he found himself in alone on TRU goalie Claye Harsany. However, his attempt struck the outside of the right post.
Just over 10 minutes later, Johnson made good, finding a loose ball at the top of the box and slotting it past Harsany.
From there, the Spartans held the defensive door. TRU’s best chance for an equaliser came in the 89th minute when Mike Harvey sent a shot on target, but Hicks was up to the task.
“Mike (Shearon) calmed us down at halftime and we sorted a few things out and we came out with more energy in the second half,” said Spartans defender Vaggeli Boucas (Langley). “We worked for each other and worked for one another, the chances slowly came and then we finally put one in. Leighton scored a great goal and then we got the victory.”
TRU goalie Harsany stopped four of the five shots he faced in the loss.
The Spartans will not prepare for a weekend on the road against UBC (Sept. 9) and Victoria (Sept. 10). The WolfPack return home to play UNBC Sept. 10-11.
GAME NOTES: The last time TWU opened a season with four straight wins was in 2007…that year, TWU started the season with six consecutive victories….TWU’s Aidan Moore (Langley) and Leighton Johnson were issued yellow cards while TRU’s Thomas Lantmeeters also saw yellow.