Silver Pikes' Mike Popoff climbs above Roma's player to win the header on Sunday afternoon soccer action. The game ended level at two. Herald photo by Gary Pearson
--PRINCE ALBERT-- A last-gasp Dylan Kowal header salvaged a draw for top-seeded Roma FC in their first playoff game yesterday afternoon as they battled the fifth-ranked Silver Pikes at Kinsmen Field.
"It was tough but we still played well," said Roma's 26-year-old Ben Bodnaryk after the 2-2 result. "I am happy with the result."
The pace of the game started off lightning quick, which tended to favour the younger, more explosive Roma team. The Silver Pikes were hemmed in their own end for the first 10 minutes, unable to conjure up any threatening attacks.
It was an abnormal site for the Silver Pikes, who usually thrive with the ball at their feet.
Kowal had his first attempt at goal in the 11th minute when he fired from long range. Roma bombarded the Silver Pikes' goal anytime they got a whiff of open space.
Roma knocked the ball around the park with consummate ease, creating shooting opportunities at will.
Brandon Furber was sent through on goal, and was just about to unleash when Silver Pikes' Peter Surkan fouled him. Surkan utilized every ounce of his wily experience to dash Roma's clear-cut opportunity.
Clark Hillaby sprawled to his left, making an outstanding save off the resulting free kick. Roma's attack was relentless, and in the 15th minute, Shaheem Shaker was in on goal with only Hillaby standing in his way. Storming out to cut down the angle, Hillaby made an improbable kick save, maintaining the scoreless draw.
Roma waited a mere two minutes for their next near miss. Furber lobbed Hillaby from distance only to see his effort bounce off the top of the bar and away from harm.
The opening 20 minutes was played at a furious pace. The pace slowed, however, and the half came to a close with the teams deadlocked at 0-0.
Roma started the second half in much the same way they started the match. A long throw in from they byline by Adam Pearson caused all sorts of havoc inside the Silver Pikes' box within a minute of the re-start.
The resultant header flashed wide of Hillaby's goal. After continuous territorial pressure, Roma broke through in the 55th minute from a sublime Ben Bodnaryk flick, which sent Shaker through on goal, who on this occasion, made no mistake.
"We played a really strong first half. We held possession for pretty much the entire time," said 26-year-old Bodnaryk, Roma's maestro in the midfield. "We got that first goal and kind of let up. We played a lot more defensive in the second half."
A free kick was given in favour of the Silver Pikes, however, 11 minutes later. The side with a wealth of experience levelled the match on a header from close range by Jim Glass.
In the 62nd minute, Silver Pikes' Ludes Cazeau buried his only chance of the match to give the underdogs a 2-1 lead.
With 10 minutes left in the match, the referee called a dubious penalty in Roma's favour. Hillaby decided to sub himself out of goal for Kevin James, a keeper who is more adept at stopping penalties. It turned out to be an astute decision, as James saved Shaker's low spot kick with his toe.
It looked as though an upset was on the cards, but for a long throw-in at the death. Pearson bombed the ball into the box, which was nodded home in dramatic fashion by Kowal.
The fifth-seeded Silver Pikes did well taking the pace out of the game, and if not for some last-minute drama, would have sealed the victory.
Silver Pikes' Darcy Furber, brother of Dion, said the game almost went to plan, but for some mental mistakes.
"There is only one way to play against these guys, and that is to distribute the ball," said the 39-year-old. "It took us a while to get into it."
Roma plays at Prime Ministers' Park on Tuesday in a match versus fifth-seeded West Side UTD. The Silver Pikes take to the pitch at Kinsmen Field on Thursday versus eighth-seeded Whitefish FC. The top two from each four-team pool will qualify for the semifinals.
You can follow Gary Pearson on Twitter: @newagejourno