UPEI third-year player Sam Smiley had his first multi-goal game as a Panther on Sunday.
The UPEI men’s soccer Panthers opened their season on a rocky note falling 2-0 to the St. F.X. X-men at the UPEI turf on Saturday afternoon before a good crowd hoping to see their team get off to a good start.
It wasn’t to be, as the larger, aggressive and experienced X-men came out pressing and hemmed the Panthers in their own half for most of the first frame. The size difference in the X-Men proved to be a major hurdle that the Panthers just couldn’t overcome as most balls in the air were controlled by St. F.X.
This proved itself in the 43rd minute as a Panther goal kick turned into counter attacking header followed by a clean strike from X-Men midfielder Dan Hayfield that gave St. F.X. the 1-0 lead at half time.
UPEI head coach Lewis Page kept his starting 11 intact as they entered the second half but it became apparent that changes were in order as he shuffled his squad in hopes of mounting some sort of continuous attack. The X-Men continued their assault but for the luck of some goal posts and last second deflections, the Panthers were able to hold the score.
In the 80th minute, St. F.X. striker Natneal Tecle beat his fullback along the baseline and scored the clincher.
If you were a Panther fan the stats weren’t pretty as X held a 20-10 edge in shots toward goal 8-5 edge in shots on goal. The chances were no better as X held the advantage 11-3. Fouls were UPEI 14 and X eight with both squads picking up two yellow cards. The X-Men had the advantage in corner kicks, 10-2.
“We got beat by a better team for sure,” said Page. “That’s not only a big strong team but they are also very good technically. It’s certainly a standard that we have got to get up to and unfortunately we’re not there yet. I think our 1v1 defending needs to be better. That’s a very good team, they’re going to win a lot of games.”
The Panthers rebounded from their loss to St. F.X. with a solid 4-0 performance over the U de Moncton Aigles Bleus Sunday afternoon at the Moncton Stadium.
The Panthers started out a little tentative in the first half but a strong backline kept the Aigles Bleus off the scoresheet and it wasn’t until the 44th minute when rookie striker Neil Harte scampered down the left wing sending a picture perfect cross to the back post to on rushing, unmarked midfielder Sam Smiley. All he had to do was to side foot it into the open goal. The half ended 1-0 Panthers.
UPEI came out in the second half with new found confidence and it was Neil Harte who made it 2-0 in the 51st minute, taking a pass from veteran Lucas Holmes and placing a neat toe poke into the top right hand corner of the Moncton goal. In the 60th minute, Smiley garnered his second goal of the game from midfielder Lucas Ross to put the icing on the game. Seven minutes later all doubt as to the outcome was removed when a Moncton defender nodded a wide cross in from the right hand side from the foot of fullback Jeff Moore into his own goal.
It was player of the game, three-year veteran Sam Smiley’s first multi-goal game.
“It feels good to get a couple after the three years,” said Smiley. “This was a great win for the guys and it’s going to be the first of many. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Third-year keeper Brett Strba picked up the clean sheet in the win.
Stats on the game were relatively close, the main difference being the Panthers were able to capitalize on the chances they had while Moncton was not as fortunate. Shots toward goal were 13-12 for the Panthers while the Panthers edged out Moncton 7-6 in shots on goal. Chances were 7-5, favouring UPEI, while Moncton outfouled UPEI 12-8.
UPEI now has three days to prepare for a Mount Allison road game Thursday evening in Sackville.