Victoria Highlanders FC (5-2-1) welcomed Calgary Foothills FC (5-3-2) to Centennial Stadium, June 23rd for the finale of their weekend series. The Highlanders, looking to bounce back after dropping the first match of the weekend, received second half goals from Goteh Ntignee and Shun Takano on their way to a 2-1 win at home.
The home side took advantage of a retooled lineup as Mackenzie Cole and Aly Adib drew into the starting eleven. Both teams played a choppy opening 13 minutes as neither team was able to gain clear possession in the midfield long enough to put together an offensive attack. Goteh Ntignee came close to a tap-in in the 14th minute, but the pass from Daniel Davidson was a touch too heavy. The first shots of the game came off a dangerous rush for the Highlanders as Shun Takano’s initial shot was stopped by Benjamin Jackson before Davidson had a go at the rebound, but Yacine Tchemmoun made a brilliant defensive block near the goal line to keep it scoreless in the 26th minute.
Aribim Pepple, one of Calgary’s most dangerous and explosive players over the weekend, looked well on his way to a breakaway but a perfectly timed tackle by Joshua Banton pushed the ball out of danger. Davidson found himself with another opportunity as he broke in on the left wing and fired a shot just wide of the left post. Elyad Shojaei followed up that chance with a good look of his own but his shot sailed over the crossbar in the 37th minute. In the 40th minute, Connor Guilherme was issued a yellow card for a hard challenge in the midfield. After 45 minutes of play, the teams headed to the locker rooms with the game still scoreless.
The second half saw the home side strike early with Goteh Ntignee scoring his fourth goal of the season in only his third start. Sean Young threaded a perfect pass to Ntignee in the box where the USL League Two Top 50 Prospect fired a shot through Jackson’s legs to give Victoria a 1-0 lead in the 49th minute. It took all of seven minutes for the Highlanders to strike again. Victory Shumbusho played the ball over to Shun Takano who shot a perfectly placed ball just inside the far post for his second goal of the season.
With a 2-0 lead, the Highlanders continued to push the tempo and attack the Foothills backline. In the 75th minute of play, Guilherme was issued his second yellow card of the match and was ejected from the game, leaving Victoria with ten men on the field. Simon Norgrove and the Highlanders backline were able to weather the storm as Calgary threw everything they had at the net as they searched for two quick goals. While Willy Akio was able to convert on a beautiful goal in the added time, the Highlanders held on for the 2-1 win.
It was the first-ever victory for the Victoria side against the Foothills. With the win, the Highlanders pulled within a point of Calgary for top spot in the Northwest Division with two games in hand. Highlanders’ head coach Thomas Niendorf saw it as a big bounce back win, and a great showing from his squad.
“That’s the bottom line, you can fall down, but you have to get back up and show that you can come together as a team. We made some adjustments to our game and we knew the things we needed to take care of to find our game,” added Niendorf. “In the end it all comes down to execution and taking care of the fundamentals. It was really good to see how motivated we were and how much they paid attention to our changes. We started on the front foot this game rather than the back foot like the last game. I’m tremendously proud of the boys to keep our season going with an opportunity to challenge for a playoff spot.”
The Highlanders are back in action on Friday, June 28th as they hit the road to take on Portland Timbers U23 at McCulloch Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. The Highlanders are back home on Friday, July 5th for their final home game of the regular season at Centennial Stadium against Vancouver TSS FC Rovers in the second leg of the Juan De Fuca Plate. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.
Rise & Grind Man of the Match
VHFC: Goteh Ntignee 49’ (Sean Young) , Shun Takano 56’ (Victory Shumbusho, Mackenzie Cole)
CGY: Willy Akio 90+’
VHFC: Victory Shumbusho 18’, Connor Guilherme 40’, Connor Guilherme 75’
CGY: Dan Hayfield 45’, Marcus Campanile 61’, Daniel Pritchard 75’
VHFC: Connor Guilherme 75’
Victoria Highlanders FC
Norgrove (GK); Banton, Guilherme, Adib, Shojaei, Young, Cole (Hill 65’), Takano, Shumbusho (Popadynetz 70’), Davidson (Colley 81’), Ntignee (Ando 90+’)
Calgary Foothills FC
Jackson (GK); Pritchard, Keen (Harrison 45’), Hall, Tchemmoun (Orgnaro 88’), Hayfield (Bartolillo 70’), Campanile, Rendle (Bent 45’), Akio, Fakunle, Pepple
REF: Brett Hartmann
AR1: Ben Clarke
AR2: Hannah Browning
4th Official: Robbie Wierenga