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The Victoria Highlanders were on the losing side today when a winning goal in the dying minutes by Portland Timbers U23, secured victory for the visitors at Centennial Stadium. It was a balanced game for the first 20 minutes of play with both sides having chances. Then Vic West’s Sho Goto scored for the Highlanders in the 24th minute, from a deflection by Owen Pearce.
The Timbers exerted pressure and the home defence was tested in the 35th minute when Ryan McCurdy booted the ball away at the goal line. This was followed in the 37th minute by a spectacular save by goalkeeper Simon Norgrove at the end of the penalty box. It was a relieved Highlanders that went into half time intermission leading 1-0.
With three substitutions in the first half, the Timbers came out fighting in the second half and equalized in the 47th minute from a header by Francesco Amorosio. The Highlanders showed good defence during the half with a constant onslaught on goal by the visitors. In the 73rd minute Blair Sturrock got a breakaway and was mowed down by Timbers defender Bob Groenendijk. The referee gave a yellow card to Groenendijk, despite cries from the crowd that it was a red card offence.
In the 87th minute Willie Spur scored for the Timbers just inside the penalty box that found the bottom right of the net.
This is the fourth loss in a row for the Highlanders and Head Coach Dave Dew admits it is frustrating when they lose by one goal. “It is really grating on the guys but you have to keep plugging away. The last two or three minutes we had some really good chances, but didn’t put them away,” he said.
They knew playing the Timbers would be a challenge – as one of the strongest teams in the Premier Development League they have a large core of players to call on. “They had 48 players to choose from last year. We are on the Island and you don’t know what you are getting when you bring them in, and we also depend on locals. It’s finite who we can draw from.” He praised Jonah Smith and Aidan Moore - two young players who had good games and with great potential.
The Highlanders now have a five-match road trip starting on Friday against TSS Academy in Richmond. Dew says having alternating matches home and away are ideal, but thinks the time away will be good for the players. “Getting them out of here and on the road together will help and build some camaraderie.”