Valour FC leapt above the playoff line with a second-straight 1-0 victory over Forge FC. Brett Levis scored the lone goal of the match late in the second half, and the Winnipeg side held on for their third straight victory and clean sheet.
They are now up into fourth place in the league, tied on 36 points with Forge. Just five points now separate Ottawa at the top of the table, and Pacific in fifth as the playoff race reaches a boiling point.
Picking up where procedings left off on Wednesday between the two clubs, it was a tense affair in the early moments. The sides combined for nine fouls in the first 20 minutes of the match, and Rezart Rama was shown a yellow card for a cynical challenge on Diego Gutierrez.
History nearly repeated itself in the 20th minute as Valour came close to scoring yet another acrobatic opener. This time is was Nassim Mekideche, whose overhead kick attempt was saved well by Triston Henry.
Valour held most of the ball in the opening half-hour of the match, but the Forge press did start to cause them some issues as the half wore on. On one such occasion, Mekideche was dispossessed just outside his own box in the 29th minute, and Woobens Pacius found Terran Campbell in plenty of space at the top of the Valour box, but the Forge attacker’s tame shot was easily blocked.
The usually confident Forge struggled in possession during the opening half. They completed just 72 per cent of their passes during the opening half and lost possession 35 times during the opening 45 minutes.
The Hamilton side did earn themselves a free-kick opportunity in a decent position against the run of play in the 41st minute. Tristan Borges found Kyle Bekker at the top of the box, but for Forge captain fired his shot well over the net.
After scoring a goal of the season candidate on Wednesday, Matteo De Brienne nearly scored another on a brilliant half-volley that forced a brilliant save from Henry. The Forge keeper acrobatic didn’t come without a cost, however, as he stayed down for several minutes after making the stop. That was the last real chance of the half, as it remained deadlocked 0-0.
Looking to change the rhythm of the match, Forge head coach Bobby Smryniotis elected to make a pair of substitutions at the half. He brought on Alessandro Hojabrpour and Jordan Hamilton replaced Emery Welshman and Campbell.
Valour kept the pressure on with a pair of corners in the opening minutes of the second half. Both created significant chaos in the Forge box, but neither were able to be turned in by Forge players, with Walter Ponce coming closest.
The Winnipeg side finally found their opener in the 73rd minute. Some brilliant work down the left flank saw Levis play a one-two with captain Daryl Fordyce before drifting into the box to finish off the chance. It was Levis’ second goal of the season, and unquestionably his biggest in a Valour uniform as they took a 1-0 lead.
Valour did an excellent job of seeing out the result, as Forge did not manage a single shot on target over 90 minutes. For the second straight match, however, the Winnipeg side had a player sent off in injury time as this time it was substitute Alessandro Riggi who was shown red.
It is the fifth straight match that Forge has gone without a win (four losses), and third straight without a goal as they will return to Hamilton with plenty of work to do to get back to their usual dominant selves.
73′ — Brett Levis (Valour FC)
17′ — Yellow: Rezart Rama (Forge FC)
31′ — Yellow: Daryl Fordyce (Valour FC)
50′ — Yellow: Alessandro Hojabrpour (Forge FC)
75′ — Yellow: Alessandro Riggi (Valour FC)
81′ — Yellow: Stefan Cebara (Valour FC)
88′ — Yellow: Matteo de Brienne (Valour FC)
90′ +2 — Yellow + Red: Alessandro Riggi (Valour FC)
90′ + 2 — Yellow: Tristan Borges (Forge FC)