Highanders FC defeated Premier Development League (PDL) rival TSS FC Rovers 2-0 on Sunday, defending their 2014 Juan de Fuca Plate title in the 2017 edition of the supporter-driven competition at Centennial Stadium.
Paddy Nelson and Stuart Heath registered goals for the home side, while Ty Venhola earned the clean sheet between the woodwork in his first start of the year for Victoria.
In arguably their best performance of the season, the Highlanders quickly began to cause problems for the visiting Rovers, with the lively trio of Nelson, Blair Sturrock and Andrew Ofosu orchestrating several promising looking chances in the attacking third before the match had hit the 15-minute-mark.
Rovers goalkeeper Andrew Hicks came up big early, sprawling to deny midfielder Owen Pearce on a shot from the corner of the six-yard box. Hicks was alert on a Sturrock strike later in the half, one of two attempts on goal in the opening 45 minutes by the former Dundee United attacker.
Nelson opened his Highlanders account—and scoring in the match—on the half-hour-mark, getting a head to teammate Sho Goto’s corner kick delivery in the box for his first of the season to give the Highlanders the lead and advantage in the bid for the Juan de Fuca Plate.
An inch-perfect tackle by Francesco Bartolillo kickstarted a counter for Victoria on 40 minutes, with Nelson nearly adding an assist to his afternoon after a pass to Goto in the box. Unfortunately, Goto’s blast towards goal was denied by Hicks to keep his side down just a goal.
TSS’s attempts were far and few between in the opening half, with an early corner and a Verhoven attempt that was wide left the only real blemishes on an positive half for Victoria that would finish with them holding a 1-0 lead.
Highlanders doubled their lead in minute 60, as Heath converted a second corner kick opportunity after finding the ball at his feet inside the box. It was the Belfast native’s first goal of the year.
An improved TSS side in the second half were unable to mount sustained pressure on Venhola, but did force the UNBC ‘keeper into a fantastic pair of saves 10 minutes after going down by two on what looked like sure goals.
A shot off the post from Nelson, a late run from Victoria’s Elie Gindo and pair of shots from Sturrock in the dying minutes of the match highlighted an entertaining second half, with the Highlanders holding on to their 2-0 lead to retain the Juan de Fuca Plate for the 2017 season. It was the first time that the trophy was presented on Vancouver Island, with the previous editions of the competition taking place on the mainland.
The Highlanders are back in action this Friday, July 14 at Centennial Stadium against Seattle Sounders U-23. Kick-off in the match is set for 7:00 p.m. For tickets and more information visit www.highlandersfc.ca
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