Victoria Highlanders got back to winning ways at Swangard Stadium on Friday night, coming away with a 1-0 victory over TSS Rovers thanks to Sho Goto’s match winning 88th minute strike.
The match was Victoria’s first away game of the season in the PDL, after kicking things off with five straight matches at Centennial Stadium, and they’ll be hoping there’s a lot more to come as they keep alive their faint postseason hopes ahead of a gruelling spell of matches coming up for the islanders.
It’s been a tough start to the year for the Highlanders, with four straight losses after their season opening 4-1 win over Lane United. Three of those defeats have come by one goal margins, with two stemming from goals given up in the final five minutes of matches.
The second half of games hadn’t been kind to Victoria as they headed in to face TSS Rovers, with only one goal scored from their five matches so far and seven given up, but all the late heartbreak turned to joy with the Highlanders finally claiming a last gasp victory of their own, much to the delight of head coach Dave Dew.
“We spent a lot of time over the last week in trying to stay positive,” Dew told AFTN after the match. “Knowing that if a bounce or two had gone our way, we could have been the one sitting there at 5 and 0, instead of 1 and 4. It’s tough when you’re giving up those goals late in the game with the predominantly young squad that we have.
“Last year we had a full compliment of overagers, this year we only have five. So it’s one of those things that you just try and stay composed, and try and be patient the whole game, the whole 90 minutes, and I thought we did a better job of that today.”
Friday’s victory moves the Highlanders up to six points on the season, 14 behind divisional leaders Calgary Foothills, but Victoria have three games in hand on their Albertan rivals, which could close the gap to just five if they can take advantage of them all.
That will be a task easier said than done with the Highlanders facing what is a gruelling six straight road games in a two week period, which includes three matches in Oregon in a four day spell.
It’s been an incredible schedule for Victoria this year, but Dew feels his side are ready to cope with it and they’ll have a new face in the squad soon to help them do that.
“We’ll rotate some players in and out,” Dew told us. “We got a guy who’s just got his International Transfer Clearance today, who’s a really good player, that we’ve as of yet not been able to play. His name is Fabien Kuramata. He’s from New Zealand, but he’s Japanese.
“He’s a quick, big strong kid. He won’t be able to play for us on Sunday because you have to get everything done on the Wednesday prior, but certainly when we go on the road he’ll be a real asset to us and he is a bona fide goalscorer. It’s one thing we’ve been missing a bit.”
And Kuramata’s addition will also be a boost for the Highlanders now leading goalscorer Goto, who’s made a fantastic transition from defence to attack these last two matches.
“Him having Japanese as his first language, him and Sho will do quite well together,” Dew said. “Sho played in the J-League. He’s the real deal. We’ve been playing him as left back the whole time, but last week we decided to play him up front and he scored a goal and now he’s scored again. He’s only played two games as a striker and he’s scored two goals. His English is quite poor. He’s actually taking full time classes in Victoria to try and improve it.”