HIGHLIGHTS: HFX Wanderers FC vs. Forge FC (September 30, 2023) | Presented by tonybet
Match in a minute or less
The Halifax Wanderers are headed to the Canadian Premier League playoffs after a 2-1 victory over Forge FC on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd at the Wanderers Grounds in their final home match of the 2023 regular season.
Massimo Ferrin scored his third goal against Forge this season, and seventh overall, to open the scoring in the 12th minute. Forge then equalized in the 34th as Woobens Pacius added his tenth of the season. However, a chaotic finish to the first half would see the Wanderers awarded a penalty, with Dan Nimick stepping up and smashing home his sixth goal of the season from the spot.
With the victory, the Wanderers have gone undefeated (two wins-two draws) against Forge FC this season. Halifax are now just a point, or dropped points by Atlético Ottawa, away from securing a first-ever home playoff match. Forge, meanwhile, will await the result of Pacific’s match with Vancouver FC to see if they drop in the CPL table, currently sitting in second spot with a two-point cushion on the Tridents.
Halifax Wanderers clinch playoff spot, home dominance continues during club record-setting season
It only seems fitting that the Halifax Wanderers secured their playoff spot at the Wanderers Grounds, which they have reestablished as one of the league’s most difficult away dates during the 2023 season.
Their 2-1 victory against Forge FC on Saturday at home was their club record 28th point at home this season, a full ten better than they had last year. The previous best was 25 picked up by the club during the 2021 season. Nine wins at home is also a club record.
“I’m so proud of the group and just seeing the fans and the atmosphere, there are still people here that are just going crazy,” said Halifax head coach Patrice Gheisar after the match. “They are so excited with us making the playoffs, so it is for sure amazing. I hope this is something that we can continue to grow and I think we have to project a higher number next year as we continue to grow and make this place a fortress. It was certainly one of the number one things I talked about, gaining a massive amount of points at home, and we achieved it.”
Almost as important as the victories this season, has been the way that Halifax has played at home. Their entertaining brand of football has seen them score 25 home goals, the most in the CPL this season. After scoring a league-low 13 at home last year, and with the previous club record standing at 18, it represents a significant improvement in the entertainment value they have brought, especially at home, this season.
“We are playing in front of a sold-out crowd yet again today, to do it in front of the fans so to clinch a playoff spot in front of the fans it is incredible,” said defender Daniel Nimick after the match. “It is the least we could do to repay them for the support they have given us this season, it has been amazing to play in front of them and hopefully, we can clinch fourth or above so we can host a playoff game in front of them.”
As Nimick mentioned, the news could get even better for Halifax soon as well. If they can collect one more point, or if Atlético Ottawa drops any more points in their last two matches, the Wanderers will secure their first-ever home playoff match. Considering they have defeated all four other sides currently in playoff positions this season at the Wanderers Grounds, nobody will want to travel to the East Coast for a postseason match. Third, and mathematically even second place, aren’t completely off the table either depending upon results elsewhere.
“It is really important to celebrate this win, but if you take your eye off the prize we go one step forward, one step back, it kind of haunts us,” said Gheisar. “It is in our hands, we will see what we can do next Friday, and really looking forward to a long October.”
Massimo Ferrin, Daniel Nimick, continue to step up for Wanderers in big moments
If Forge doesn’t have to play against Massimo Ferrin again this season they will probably be relieved. For the third time in four meetings against the Hamilton side this season, the 24-year-old Ferrin opened the scoring, and was generally a thorn in Forge’s side throughout the match.
He also won Halifax’s albeit dubious penalty kick with a clever flick over Alessandro Hojabrpour, and a stunning eight fouls won over the course of the match.
“It is crazy that that boy was playing in League1 with me last year and it is crazy what he has been able to do,” said Gheisar. “Seven goals, ten points total, how many penalties he’s drawn, his vertical, the abilities that he has, it is phenomenal. He missed a lot of games and he has been playing injured. For me, Mass not only steps up for whatever reason against Forge, he likes playing against this team, but he rises to the occasion in many big games. I’m beyond grateful for what he has done for this team, but I’m also really grateful to see his progress because believe it or not I think year two will be even better for him.”
Ferrin, in particular, did a good job of finding gaps and miscommunications between Aboubacar Sissoko and Rezart Rama in a newer Forge system that sees both of the aforementioned players playing out of their more natural positions. The most clear example of this came on the 12th-minute goal, where he got the wrong side of Sissoko and was able to head home a lovely cross from Jake Ruby.
Another staple of Forge-Halifax meetings this season has been Daniel Nimick scoring from the penalty spot. He scored his third against Forge, fourth penalty of the season, and sixth goal overall to ultimately hand the Wanderers the win in first-half stoppage time.
Especially impressive for a player who is just 23 years of age, was Nimick’s composure during the three full minutes between when his penalty was awarded and he was actually allowed to take it as Forge did a good job to try to ‘ice the kicker’. Nimick didn’t look phased, as he hasn’t been in the spotlight all year.
“You just stay relaxed in the moment, honestly when I’m there waiting to take it feels like it’s five seconds,” said Nimick. “I don’t really realize the time wait, but it was a great opportunity for me obviously, four from the spot.”
A thrilling match at the Wanderers Ground, but Forge left frustrated by another penalty decision in Halifax
Saturday’s match was undoubtedly a thrilling contest between two of the league’s best attacking and ballplaying sides, both of whom were intent on playing an expansive, entertaining style regardless of the offensive threats their opponents possessed.
The match finished with a combined 36 shots taken by the two sides, 11 of which were on target. The sides traded attacking opportunities and goals in the first half, and as has been the case in all of the previous meetings between these two sides, the result wasn’t secure until the final whistle.
The decisive moment of the match, however, undoubtedly left a sour feeling for the visitors. After Rezart Rama had incredibly cleared a shot from Tiago Coimbra off the line in first-half stoppage time, Alessandro Hojabrpour was judged to have brought down Ferrin in the box — with Nimick stepping up to score the match-winning penalty. However, it did not appear that the Forge midfielder made any contact with the Halifax attacker.
Both Forge captain Kyle Bekker and coach Bobby Smyrniotis voiced their significant displeasure with a decision that they felt changed the match. Compounding their frustration, according to Smyrniotis, is the fact that their last two meetings against Halifax also saw the Wanderers awarded controversial penalty kicks. He says that this hasn’t only been a frustration for Forge this season.
“We should be talking about two teams who put a big effort to play football today, but there are a lot of other shenanigans going on,” said Smyrniotis after the match.
Halifax, however, deserve a lot of credit for how they saw out a massive result. Instead of inviting pressure for the second half they were proactive in retaining possession and creating attacking moments when they did get on the ball. Crucial in this as always was Lorenzo Callegari, as the midfielder is so essential to making sure they maintain the ball and are able to relieve some pressure, connecting on 42 of 46 attempted passes.
On the few occasions when they were broken down defensively, Yann Fillion was outstanding, making a stunning seven saves including a brilliant double save in second-half stoppage time to secure the result.
Halifax have struggled to see out matches at times this season, especially against Forge, as their last three meetings, even the match they won, have seen them give up late equalizers. They lead the league in points dropped from winning positions this season, with 18. But knowing the stakes on Saturday, they showed impressive composure.
“We tend to make it interesting at the end of games and I think today finally we were able to see it out,” said Nimick. “We’ve had a habit of giving up late goals against teams but just proud for the guys for the whole game, the effort from the first minute until the 90th minute, you could tell we had a chance to clinch a playoff and everyone played like that. We worked until the final whistle and we managed to keep them out, even though it was nervy the last five minutes.”
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Massimo Ferrin, Halifax Wanderers
Ferrin’s 12th-minute opener was the highlight of a stellar performance that saw him also attempt five dribbles, win 11 of 19 duels and possession eight times while being a constant threat offensively.
Forge finish the season at Tim Hortons Field as they host Atlético Ottawa in a rematch of last year’s playoff final on Saturday, October 7 (4:00 p.m. ET). Halifax, meanwhile, are on the road for their finale, as they take on Valour FC on Friday, October 6 (8:30 p.m. AT / 7:30 p.m. ET).
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