It's a game St. Marys Juggernauts will remember for a long, long time.
Juggernauts pulled off the most incredible comeback in their history after going down by four goals, and with 35 minutes left pulled out a last-gasp draw and perhaps a lifeline in the First Division standings with 4-4 WOSL tie with London Scottish last Friday night at St. Marys DCVI.
In the first half, Scottish scored the first goal of the match in a controversial manner.
After a Scottish midfielder lobbed the ball forward, defender Sjoerd DeWit tracked back to clear the ball. However, as he attempted to knock the ball into touch, he was shoved from behind into keeper Aaron Wybrow. This left the net wide open for an easy finish for the Scottish striker. It also sent a sign the referee was not going to get involved too much.
Juggernauts’ best chance of the half came when Mike Weersink had a great rebound chance off a Neil Van De Walle shot, but the keeper saved it easily. Weersink, a regular player until this season, has been travelling and signed to play two games before he returns to school and his experience was a bonus on the day.
The St. Marys side went into half-time very optimistic and it felt like they were ready to take the game by the scruff of the neck. But the roof fell in on Juggernauts as Scottish got three quick goals right after the break to take what appeared to be a commanding 4-0 lead.
Each one left keeper Wybrow little chance, as they were all close range strikes after runs that went untracked through the midfield and back-line defence. Coach Moylan, who had seen enough after going down by four, made some quick substitutions to try and salvage an ugly score line.
Striker Kene Mills responded with 30 minutes left on the clock with a powerful shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards out that left the keeper smelling burnt grass. Not that anybody, particularly the Scottish, thought a comeback was on after one goal but minutes later, striker Neil Van De Walle danced into the Scottish goal area and finished from close range to make it 4-2. It was Van De Walle's league-leading 10th goal.
The mood of the game changed for sure as there was a belief amongst the St. Marys contingent that the London team was definitely starting to wobble.
Defender Kevin Thompson, always willing to move forward for a chance when the team is behind, scored with about 15 minutes remaining with a rocket from 25 yards out that deflected off a Scottish defender (was going in anyway). The Scottish ship had for sure hit St. Marys limestone and was going down.
With Thompson and his mates starting to control the game from the back end, it was who was going to feel the better on the day. Scottish fought in vain to hang on and Juggernauts wanted to return from a disastrous start of the second half. Certainly the play started to get very physical and the referee’s yellow card made several notations of the Scottish offenders.
Through all this play, rookie Andrew Gravett continued to excel and drive the Juggernauts forward with some well-timed runs and excellent passing. With Gravett’s play earning him ‘Woolfy’s Player-of-the-Match’ honours, he capped the evening off in helping set up a highlight goal.
Striker Evin Murray completed the comeback, taking a Gravett pass and when he cut to the top of the 18-yard box he unleashed a bending strike into the top right corner which sent chills up the spines of the St. Marys contingent for both what it meant in terms of the outcome, but also the great quality of the shot.
“We had a difficult 15 minutes to start the second half,” coach Moylan said. “But I give credit to the players; it is always very difficult to recover from four goals down and rarely happens.”
Thompson added: “We didn’t panic. We were a little bit low but we said we can do it especially after we scored the first goal. It was difficult, but at the end we got a point for our efforts. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult when you miss some great chances early in the game; it can make the confidence a little bit low and they punished us. But I thought we showed great character with our endeavor to find a way back into the game.”
Murray said of his finish: “You could see on my face how much the goal meant to me. I’ve had a long haul back from injury and I couldn’t have picked a better moment to score. We’re proud of our efforts and would have been devastated if we haven’t got anything from the game. We knew we had a hard start to the second half, but we always come to compete, not just to survive, and today we showed everyone how good we can be.”
The dramatic outcome left Juggernauts (6-1-7) just two points behind the Scottish (5-6-3).
Juggernauts want to carry the positive momentum into their next league game which is at home this Friday, Aug. 24 against London Portuguese (3-1-8). The game starts at DCVI at 8 p.m.
In the WOSL First Division standings, Wallaceburg (9-1-4) continues to lead the pack with 28 points after weekend action. Bosnia (8-3-2) is second, one point behind, and St. Thomas (8-1-5) third. St. Marys is alone in fifth place in the 10-team division.