Forge FC and Halifax Wanderers battled to a feisty 1-1 draw at at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday night, as the Hamilton side came back from a goal down in the second half to claim a vital point for each side.
This crucial fixture for both sides began with the two managers making a handful of significant lineup changes; the Wanderers travelled to Hamilton without in-form attacker João Morelli, while Forge shuffled their attack and midfield, bringing Khadim Kane into the middle and Kwasi Poku on the wing.
After the opening stages passed largely without incident, both teams attempting to feel each other out, the game began to open up and the Wanderers drew first blood. As Jordan Perruzza chased down a ball over the top of Forge’s backline, defender Manjrekar James grappled with him enough to prompt referee Carly Shaw-MacLaren to point to the spot in the 27th minute.
As he did earlier this season against Forge, defender Dan Nimick stepped up to take the penalty, smashing it down the middle to put Halifax in front 1-0.
The Wanderers did well from there in the final minutes of the first half to hold onto the lead, clearing the ball several times from their box to ensure they went into halftime a goal ahead.
Looking to shake things up in midfield, Forge gaffer Bobby Smyrniotis turned to his bench at the interval and brought on Tristan Borges in place of Kane, slotting him into an attacking midfield role alongside Kyle Bekker.
The match didn’t exactly open up much in the second half, although Forge did continue to build and created some good chances in the first 20 minutes after halftime. Smyrniotis made another change with about 20 minutes to go, bringing Garven Metusala into midfield in place of Alessandro Hojabrpour. Patrice Gheisar, though, countered with four subs around that time — adding Callum Watson, Tiago Coimbra, Andre Rampersad and Doneil Henry into the mix in an effort to shore things up and hold onto the lead.
At last, though, Forge had their moment. They won a free kick around the corner of the penalty area, and Béni Badibanga took responsibility, flicking an outrageous strike from the dead ball over the wall and in at the near post, levelling the score at 1-1.
The two sides thus saw out the even score, despite some achingly close chances at either end in stoppage time, leaving Forge and Halifax in third and fifth in the table, respectively.