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Tampa Bay Rowdies went into their home game against Ottawa Fury FC tonight knowing that they dare not lose if they wanted to keep their tender hopes of making the end of season NASL play offs. Against a well organized and disciplined side, the Rowdies struggled for long periods to make any kind of impact in the game but in the end they battled back late in the game even though they were down to ten men by that point.
Leading scorer Tom Heinemann (pictured above) gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute with a fine strike past Rowdies keeper Matt Pickens as he collected the ball with his back to goal, just outside the penalty box, and then he turned quickly before firing a low shot into the net. The Rowdies then huffed and puffed without any real end product for most of the second half as the leagues best defence twarted a Rowdies front line that seemed to have no cutting edge.
Fury FC goalkeeper Romuald Peiser had kept thirteen clean sheets going into the game and as the game headed to its closing minutes it looked like number fourteen was in the bag. The Rowdies though, have something of a reputation for late goals and so it proved again as Brian Shriver (pictured below) read a Freddy Adu chip behind the defence and raced onto the ball to poke it past Peiser to level the match in the 88th minute.
“We wanted the three points, but even at halftime when we were 1-nil down, I believed that if we raised our level and raised our intensity that we were more than capable of getting a result,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “At halftime, I said no matter what happens in the second half, give me every ounce of energy you’ve got—do it for yourselves, do it for the fans and do it for the club. We were down to 10 men for about 15 minutes and you’d never have known it.”
The match itself was a dull affair largely ruined by the performance of match referee Daniel Radford who insisted on blowing for the smallest infraction at every opportunity. The flow of the game was spoiled as Radford blew time and time again and then insisted the ball be placed at the exact location of the infringement every time. Radford then capped his performance when he sent off Rowdies midfielder Darnell King in the 77th minute for a second yellow card offense of the evening,
The result keeps Tampa Bay in the thick of the race to The Championship, the NASL’s four-teams playoffs. Tampa Bay entered the night tied on points with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and FC Edmonton. Fort Lauderdale lost 2-1 in Minnesota to Minnesota United FC, moving the Rowdies one point ahead of the Strikers into fourth place.
“We wanted three points, but at the same time, any points at this point in the season going to help us to our goal of making the playoffs,” Shriver said. “We live to fight another day and we’ve got a humungous road game next weekend and we have to focus on that now. I saw Freddy get the ball at the top of the box and we were trying to get in behind the defense, so I made a run. He saw my run and played a fantastic ball for me. It was a ball I had to do something with and I was able to get my first touch on it and put it on goal and past the goalkeeper. It was a great ball and a great feeling to tie the game.”
Up next, the Rowdies travel to Atlanta to take on the Silverbacks next weekend before returning home for their home finale on Saturday, October 24 against the Carolina RailHawks at Al Lang Stadium. Tickets for the Carolina match start at $21 and are available by calling (727) 222-2000 or clicking here
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com