The Hawks Are Howling

Match Report: Carolina Railhawks v Vancouver Whitecaps (USL1)

The USL fixtures never fail to cause bewilderment and so it is again this week as Vancouver Whitecaps face two tricky away matches in three days and against two top three teams.

Tuesday night saw them face the Carolina Railhawks again, after Saturday’s goalless -draw that saw Hawks keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell named in the USL Team of the Week.

So WakeMed Park was the setting for the game and it was a night of promotions, with food being given away every five minutes in “taste of the triangle night” and huge line ups to take advantage of the dollar beer night to wash it all down!

The Caps were clearly hoping to continue the pressure they applied at the weekend and decided to go with Charles Gbeke up front with Marlon James and Ansu Toure got the nod on the wing.

Best laid plans and all that, as with only four minutes gone Marlon James pulled up chasing a long ball and despite receiving treatment on the sidelines, he was replaced three minutes later by Marcus Haber, with a recurrance of his hamstring injury.

The first good chance of the game fell to the Caps after 11 minutes when Toure fired a low screamer from 30 yards out that was heading for the bottom right hand corner of the net before Eric Reed turned it around the post for a corner.

Moments later and recent Whitecaps signing Nizar Khalfan fired another long range effort, but it was of little trouble to the Hawks goalie.

Vancouver got a huge let off after 21 minutes. Carolina’s Joseph Kabwe got onto a through ball and left a trail of Caps defenders in his wake before Marco Reda desperately hauled him down by his shirt when he was about to run straight through to a one on one with Nolly. A clear professional foul and a clear last man challenge, but the referee inexplicably only gave Reda a yellow card.

The Railhawks aimed to make Vancouver pay for the challenge and nearly did, but Daniel Paladini saw his brilliantly curled effort go just wide and clatter off a female fan behind Jay Nolly’s goal. A game of inches indeed.

Carolina’s pace was clearly troubling the Vancouver defence now and the chances started to come for the home side.

With 32 minutes gone the dangerous and nippy Gregory Richardson, who was having a quiet game up to this point, ran at the Caps defence and played a neat ball inside to Kabwe, just as he was taken out of the game by a shoulder charge from Reda. Kabwe took on the ball but his shot was deflected for a corner.

The corner was cleared but Carolina kept the pressure on and a cross to the back post was headed across the goalmouth but with no Railhawks player waiting, Vancouver cleared.

As the game approached half time, Carolina had the best chance of the match to open the scoring on 43 minutes.

Richardson played a diagonal ball to the bye line to Josh Gardner, who took a touch, moved inside and crossed the ball in to Richardson who headed an easy chance wide from four yards out.

The big Guyanan was now starting to run the Whitecaps defence ragged and earned a corner moments later before whipping a great ball across the Caps goal which Sallieu Bundu just failed to get on the end of, but he was flagged offside in any case.

Half time came with no score and it was Vancouver who were the team that were glad to get off the pitch for a rest.

It was a fairly even start to the second half but Vancouver almost took the lead five minutes in when Gbeke forced Reed to turn the ball away, when he got on the end of a long Wes Knight throw from the right and flicked a great header goal bound.

With 57 minutes on the clock, Brad Rusin had a great chance to score when Kupono Low whipped in a dangerous cross, but his header was weak and easy for Nolly to collect.

Moments later the Hawks threatened again, when Richardson was given too much space and fired just over from outside the box.

The game was in a bit of a lull when Vancouver silenced the home crowd on 66 minutes (well to be fair they were quiet anyway – must have been all that free food). Marcus Haber got on the end of a long ball and held off the only Hawks defender Devon McKenney, who slipped allowing Haber to calmly stroke the ball past Reed and into the bottom right hand corner from 12 yards out. 1-0 Vancouver.

As both teams had half chances, Martin Nash’s face helped Vancouver keep their lead when Brian Plotkin unleashed a fierce 20 yards effort with twelve minutes remaining, only to find Vancouver’s captain courageous unknowingly blocking it in a very painful way.

Vancouver’s defence tried to keep it tight and allow Carolina only long range efforts. Paladini had an attempt on 83 minutes but Nolly was untroubled and easily collected.

As the minutes ticked by Nolly was forced to come off his line to collect a through ball before Bundu could get on the end of it and the big Vancouver stopper was becoming the busiest man on the park in the closing moments.

Carolina’s all out attack got their reward with two minutes left in a lovely passing move, made by their subs, that saw John Cunliffe find Andriy Budnyy on the edge of the box. The Ukranian striker breezed past Mason Trafford before avoiding a last ditch Hirano tackle and the oncoming Nolly to clip it home from nine yards to tie the game up.

1-1 and with four minutes of added stoppage time there was only going to be one team that was likely to win it and they nearly did in the dying seconds when the continuous Carolina pressure nearly saw a Vancouver own goal but Nolly brilliantly turned the header over.

The final whistle came and the Caps got a point they would probably have taken at the start. With every point being vital as they attempt to secure a playoff spot, it would have been harsh on Carolina if Vancouver had taken all three, but just desserts after not taking them on Saturday.

The big talking point with be the non sending off of Reda in the first half and that decision definitely influenced the result. You need those breaks though and Vancouver certainly got one.

Charles Gbeke did some non stop running and will be exhausted for Thursday night’s game at Charleston. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rested and on the bench with Haber either up front on his own or partnering Toure.

The defence looked at all sea at times during the game and once again showed what a bit of pace does to them. If the Caps want to make a playoff push then they need to tighten up in the middle and be more creative instead of playing long balls into space.

We’re still fighting though and there’s still all to play for.

FINAL SCORE: Carolina Railhawks 1 Vancouver Whitecaps 1

Authored by: Michael McColl

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