PORT HARDY—In their previous meeting on the pitch, the North Island Secondary School senior boys soccer team rallied from 2-1 down to claim a 4-2 win over Port Hardy Secondary.
The tables turned last week at PHSS as the teams played out a mirror image of that game in the final friendly of the season.
An attacking surge from the Whalers in the final half-hour pushed the Norsemen onto the back foot as the Hardy side racked up two goals in quick succession and maintained the pressure to add another in the closing minutes.
Darryl Coon was the home-town hero, scoring two to tie the game and put PHSS ahead, before creating Hardy’s fourth.
The Port McNeill side looked the more comfortable throughout the first half.
Brandon Purdey was a calming presence in the Norsemen’s defence, time and again cutting out through balls and looking composed in possession. Going forward, NISS’s Clifford Glendale was a constant threat, confident on the ball and willing to run at defenders.
PHSS struggled to build any momentum in the attacking half, lacking a final ball and running into trouble down the wings. Constant harrying from the Norsemen’s forwards and midfield gave the PHSS defenders little time on the ball and forced out-of-play clearances by the Hardy back line.
Glendale opened the scoring in style, bursting forward from the centre circle and taking a pass in stride before carving between two defenders and slotting home.
With the scoreboard open, PHSS seemed to relax into the game a little and came close to generating a series of promising chances later in the half, again the final ball just not there for the Hardy side.
After two such attempts in quick succession, Isaac Williams took matters into his own hands. When he found himself in space 25 yards out, he eschewed the expected pass for a shot that caught the NISS defence on the back foot and soared into the back of the net to tie the score.
The Hardy side made some changes after the break, pushing forward more and looking like a different side after playing with 10 men behind the ball for much of the first half.
The strategy backfired minutes after the kickoff when a PHSS defender was caught in possession down the wing. Glendale pounced on a mishit clearance and the Norsemen found themselves two-on-one with six yards of space behind the Whalers’ defence, Glendale sliding the ball between the posts.
To its credit, PHSS kept up the positive positioning and began to reap the benefits.
The Whalers’ David Shaw was a huge influence, moving up from his centre-back role in the first half to take up a holding midfield role. Shaw was instrumental in keeping on the pressure, breaking down NISS’s counterattacks and holding up the ball to give space to his forwards.
A neat one-two down the wing between Coon and Glen Moore led to the tying goal, Coon latching on to the return pass in the box and firing home.
Minutes later, Coon did it again. Some tidy interplay down the right drew over the NISS defenders and a squared ball found Coon in space at the top of the box. He made no mistake, rifling home a left-footer from 18 yards.
With the minutes ticking away, the Norsemen tried to rally but kept running into difficulty out wide. PHSS kept an attacking mindset and Coon came inches away from a hat trick in the dying minutes.
After a spell of NISS pressure, a route one counter led to Coon running at defenders and squeezing off a waist-high shot. The effort was blocked by the NISS back line and bounced between keeper and defender. A split second of indecision gave Coon the time to nip in and knee the ball towards the net, Moore thumping in to making sure as the ball trickled goalward.