Hand ball sparks Spartans to victory

For 69 minutes, the UNBC Timberwolves had what they wanted.
They had a 1-0 lead over the Trinity Western University Spartans and goalie Rob Goodey was making his five-foot-10 body look larger than the net as far as the Spartans were concerned.
UNBC went into defensive mode trying to make the slimmest of leads hold Saturday night under the lights at Masich Place Stadium and it almost worked.
Almost, but not quite.
A corner kick from Caleb Johnson found the forehead of Matthew Roxburgh standing in front of Goodey and the ball bounced in just inside the right post to tie the game at the 67:41 mark.
Two minutes later, Johnson took the penalty shot after a ball directed at the UNBC net from Luke Fulton hit the hand of T-wolves midfielder Jonah Smith inside the 18-yard box. Johnson, who missed on a penalty shot in Friday’s 3-3 tie with UNBC, found nothing but net, giving the Spartans what they needed to clinch a 2-1 victory, completing a four-point weekend on UNBC turf.
“It was pretty nervewracking going up to take (the shot) again but knew I had to step up and take it again because if I didn’t it would have shown a little less character in me if I just missed one and didn’t step up for the second one,” said Johnson, a native of Strathmore, Alta.
Roxburgh’s goal was one of 11 set pieces the Spartans had. They limited UNBC to three corner kicks, including the one which led to the T-wolves goal. Francesco Bartolillo put the ball in play and Conrad Rowlands headed it in to give UNBC the lead in the 37th minute.
“It was a hard-fought game, minute-to-minute, and we got unlucky a couple times and so did they,” said Rowlands. “The (handball call) was really unfortunate. Depending on the referee, there’s all sorts of ambiguity on whether the hand’s in a natural position or not and it’s all in the heat of the play and happening quick. The referee, if they don’t have a good look, sometimes just go off their gut and you never know how it’s going to turn out.”
But the official ruled the hand contact was deliberate, and that left Goodey in a vulnerable spot. The game-winner was shot from only 10 metres away.
“Rob was fantastic,” said Rowlands. “He really kept us in it with come crucial saves and we’re hoping he keeps going like that the entire season.”
Just as they did in Friday’s game, the Spartans controlled the ball through much of the first half. Unlike their game Friday, when they took a 2-0 lead into the intermission, the visitors from Abbotsford had nothing to show for their first-half dominance. Goodey was the reason for that. The third-year goalkeeper from Bishop’s Stortford, England, was busy from start to finish, stopping 10 of the 12 shots the Spartans fired his way. UNBC had just one shot on net and scored on it.
“We struggled (Friday) on set pieces and counterattacks and (Simonson) saw that as a way to get at us and they got the first goal,” said Spartans head coach Mike Shearon. “Our whole season so far has been all about trying to stop counters and they got the set piece off us so we had to fight back and I was excited for the guys to continue to keep going with the way we wanted to play and it worked out in the end.
“(Goodey) made some tremendous saves tonight and I can’t speak more highly of what he did and the resilience of the UNBC boys. They defended hard and we didn’t take our chances as well as we should have.”
After Johnson’s go-ahead blast, the T-wolves tried to go on the offensive but had very little success getting through to the Spartans’ net defended by Sebastien Colyn.
Friday’s game was wild, from start to finish. Cody Fransen scored for TWU just 47 seconds into the game and Vaggeli Boucas made it a 2-0 count in the 22nd minute.  The T-wolves rallied in the second half with goals from Cody Gyspers, rookie Anthony Preston and Bartolillo (who scored in the 89th minute) to go up 3-2. But with time nearly expired, Joel Waterman scored the tying goal on Goodey, just 27 seconds after Bartolillo’s goal, to leave the teams deadlocked.
“That was a whirlwind of emotions – going to 3-2 from two-nil down at halftime was incredible and 20 seconds later it’s 3-3,” said Goodey. “It was heartbreaking but we looked at that as a fantastic achievement for what we did, coming back from two-nil down. Yeah, it was upsetting we didn’t get the win but we take the positives we got and our attacking was fantastic in that game.”
T-wolves head coach Steve Simonson said his players learned a harsh lesson in the first game that they can’t afford to get into a scoring slugfest. That’s why he ordered his players, once they had their lead, to try to put a blanket over the Spartans.
“On (Friday) night we went toe-to-toe and they ripped us in the first 45 minutes, so we tried to go ultra-compact and limit shots to unthreatening areas, which I thought we did a pretty good job of,” said Simonson.
“In the second half we had some leaks and Rob had to make some big saves and ultimately they undid us when they scored. As much as it wasn’t entertaining, there were a lot of good things we did for 70 minutes against a team that was ranked number 10 in the country. For us to do what we did this weekend is a huge credit to where our program has gone to, because this (Spartan) team has won national championships.”
Saturday’s win moved Trinity Western (2-1-1) into third place in the Canada West men’s soccer standings, while the T-wolves (0-1-2) head to Saskatchewan this weekend still seeking their first win.

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