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Wanderers secure another tie


HFX Wanderers FC striker Tomasz Skublak, left, and Valour FC defender Skylar Thomas vie for the ball during Saturday afternoon’s 0-0 draw at the Wanderers Grounds. (Ryan Taplin /The Chronicle Herald)
HFX Wanderers FC striker Tomasz Skublak, left, and Valour FC defender Skylar Thomas vie for the ball during Saturday afternoon’s 0-0 draw at the Wanderers Grounds. (Ryan Taplin /The Chronicle Herald)

The Halifax Wanderers are so close to breaking out.

They played to a 0-0 draw against Valour FC in front of 6,138 fans at the Wanderers Grounds on Saturday to give them four straight ties, but also six consecutive games without a victory.

“We’re extremely disappointed we couldn’t give (the fans) the win because I think we really owe it to them,” said Halifax head coach Stephen Hart. “But that being said I thought the players gave everything. You could see they were a little bit heavy-legged.

“We’ve played quite a few games in a short period of time and they (Valour) are a little more rested than we are. I thought they gave everything but it wasn’t to be.”

After going 0-1-4 in their five games leading up to the meeting with Winnipeg’s Valour, the Wanderers felt this was a prime opportunity to get themselves back over the hump. They hadn’t surrendered a point at home to Valour all season and were especially hungry coming off a frustrating 1-1 tie at the Wanderers Grounds that saw Forge FC score in injury time.

“We’ve been trying to get the monkey off our back here for a while now,” said Halifax keeper Christian Oxner. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. We had the goals the last two games, we just couldn’t keep it sharp at the back. Then today we keep it sharp at the back and we can’t get the goals. It’s just been kind of a rotating pattern.

“We know we have both things at our disposal. We have the goals and we have the clean sheets but we just can’t seem to get them going together at once. Once we do we’ll be a scary team in this league.”

There were a few good runs and a handful of decent set plays both ways in the first half, followed by more of the same in the same second half. There were also some quality scoring opportunities for both sides but to say either team created a point blank chance that should have put them ahead would be too generous.

“In the last set of games we’ve been creating chances,” Hart said. “We didn’t create as much today as in the last set of games and, as I’ve said, I think a part of that is just a little bit of heavy legs. You could see (striker) Akeem (Garcia), he was just done. I tried to change things up, give (Tomasz) Skublak a rest and just bring him on for the last 45 and (Luis) Perrea for the last 30 minutes, and see what could happen. But really and truly, we just didn’t create enough today.”

At the same time, it’s also true the defence was good across the board. The final shots were 6-5 for Halifax and a few of them from each side came in dangerous areas but a scoreless draw felt like an appropriate outcome.

“It’s a point struck for us,” said Valour head coach Rob Gale. “It’s the first time we’ve gotten points here. Our performance was excellent. Our back four were tremendous. I thought we limited their chances ... and I thought we controlled the game.

“The longer it went on, I thought we just had to be patient and get our fresh legs out there because we did tire a little in the heat. It’s a nice, warm day here today. Full credit to the boys. It’s not an easy place to play; it’s been tough here all season. Teams struggle here and I thought they’ve got to feel fortunate to have a point today.”

The result puts the Wanderers at 2-6-5 in the Fall Session and keeps them in last place. Valour is now 4-6-4.

“I feel like the last three nil-nil (games) here have been (missed opportunities),” Oxner said. “Whenever you keep a clean sheet at home you expect to win because you expect to get the goals, especially at home. The guys in the locker room know that, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing at the back and the goals will come with the quality we have.”

The Wanderers’ next game is at home next Saturday against FC Edmonton and their regular season finale is on Oct. 19 on the road against York9 FC.

“We’ve been sort of knocking on the door,” Hart said. “Even late in the game there were two moments where something could’ve gone our way. It didn’t but it’s not because we’re not trying to play on the front foot and not trying to be adventurous. We’re just not finishing the chances we create.

“If you were to look at this game, they had some good chances and some good looks on goal but they didn’t finish, either. It’s just one of those things.”

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