Two first half goals inside two minutes proved enough for FC Edmonton to sign off at home with a convincing 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who threatened a comeback through Luke Mulholland’s free kick after the break.
In frigid conditions, the Eddies pressed for much of the game and were denied more goals only by the woodwork and visiting keeper Diego Restrepo.
“Our attitude to the work defensively was terrific and we created a number of chances and hit the post on a couple of occasions,” said Eddies coach Colin Miller. “I’m delighted for the fans, who turned up today, because it was a fantastic performance.”
The game also owed much to the grounds crew that cleared all the snow off the field on a cold day at Clarke Stadium.
John Smits was a last minute addition to the Eddies’ line up after regular starting keeper Lance Parker suffered an injury in warm ups.
Smits made his first save, albeit an easy one, in the 16thminute as both teams took their time getting warm and into the game.
Edmonton’s first best chance came in the 23rdminute when Garrett found the ball at his feet but the midfielder’s shot was saved by Diego Restrepo in the Tampa net.
In the 26thminute, defender Eddie Edward hit the post and the rebound came out to Corey Hertzog but Restrepo made a point blank save to keep it even at 0-0.
In the 35thminute, the deadlock was broken. Edward’s shot was saved by Restrepo, but the rebound fell to Daryl Fordyce who squeezed it by the keeper to make it 1-0.
Edmonton doubled the lead a minute later.
Sadi Jalali was composed on the ball and passed it over to Garrett in space and the midfielder made no mistake slotting the shot home to make it 2-0.
Tampa Bay came out strong in the second half, finding their first goal of the night in the 48th minute. Mulholland placed his free kick from 35 yards out into the back of the net, scoring his 10th goal of the season. The Englishman has three goals in his last three matches.
With the Rowdies down one, Mulholland nearly equalized the match in the 52nd minute with a shot on goal but Smits made a key save.
After an initial push by the Rowdies, Edmonton settled down and almost scored their third of the night. Midfielder Chris Nurse found space on the left flank and powered a shot on goal but a diving Restrepo was there to deny the goal.
It was Restrepo who once again made sure the Rowdies would remain just one goal down as he made another terrific save in the 76th minute. Midfielder Neil Hlavaty saw an opportunity to take a shot and as the ball blistered towards goal, the Rowdies goalkeeper dove to his right and made another stop.
As Tampa Bay looked for the goal to level the match, they struggled to break a tough Edmonton defense. The Eddies had several chances in the final minutes of the match including one shot off the crossbar and another of the right post.
Tampa Bay is winless in their last three away matches, while next week they return home where they are currently on a four-game winning streak.
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