Pacific FC and Forge FC split the points on Sunday night at Starlight Stadium, as the two sides cancelled one another out with a first-half goal apiece in what would ultimately stand as a 1-1 draw in Langford.
Both sides entered this match with key figures missing. Forge were without captain Kyle Bekker after his red card last weekend, so Noah Jensen stepped into his place in midfield. For Pacific, both Amer Didic and Manuel Aparicio watched from the stands with suspensions of their own.
The game got off to a rapid start, with a couple early chances for Pacific in the first couple minutes. It would be Forge, however, who found the twine first: less than three minutes in, a short corner kick routine led to a cross from Tristan Borges, who found former Pacific midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour unmarked at the back post for a headed finish.
Not much more than 10 minutes later, though, Pacific drew level as Kunle Dada-Luke sent a low cross in from the right flank. Forge ‘keeper Triston Henry wasn’t able to catch it, instead deflecting it off defender Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson and into the goal to make it 1-1.
Forge came centimetres from reclaiming the lead after the half-hour mark, as Terran Campbell found himself unmarked in the box to bring down a cross, but his volley was parried off the goal line by goalkeeper Callum Irving.
So it was that the two sides returned to the dressing room knotted at a goal apiece, with both keen on claiming the full three points with a goal or two in the second half.
Pacific came out of the break energized, shifting a few things tactically to try and get into the attacking third more. They still struggled to create dangerous chances though, and Forge came close to scoring yet again early in the second half as a curling low cross from David Choinière was just barely out of reach of the oncoming Tristan Borges.
James Merriman turned to his bench right at the hour mark, deploying Djenairo Daniels up top in place of Jordan Brown for a more direct attacking presence in his side. Not long after, Bobby Smyrniotis countered by introducing Jordan Hamilton to his own attack, inserting the experienced forward in lieu of Terran Campbell.
The visitors nearly took the lead in the 69th minute, as left-back Kwasi Poku got in behind the Pacific backline before firing a shot over Irving, but his effort hit the crossbar hard and rebounded to safety.
Emery Welshman and Chris Nanco (making his return after 18 straight games missed to injury) also came into the match with about 15 minutes to play for Forge, as the Hamilton club pushed hard for a go-ahead goal. Pacific made further changes at the same time as well, with Georges Mukumbilwa coming in at fullback and Cédric Toussaint slotting into midfield.
Late in the match, Forge defender Daniel Krutzen collided with Mukumbilwa in a head-to-head challenge, sending both players to the turf. Unfortunately, Krutzen — who just returned from a lengthy knee injury last weekend — was shaken up enough to leave the match, as Malik Owolabi-Belewu entered for the final five minutes.
Ultimately, neither side would manage to find a way through after that, as the two top-four contenders were forced to settle for a draw. Pacific thus remain outside the playoff picture after the weekend (level on points with fourth-place Valour FC, but behind on goal difference), while Forge stay in third — two points off the top.
3′ — Alessandro Hojabrpour (Forge FC)
17′ — Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson (Forge FC) (Own Goal)
18′ — Yellow: Jamar Dixon (Pacific FC)
21′ — Yellow: Alessandro Hojabrpour (Forge FC)
27′ — Yellow: Thomas Meilleur-Giguère (Pacific FC)
66′ — Yellow: Kwasi Poku (Forge FC)
70′ — Yellow: Garven Metusala (Forge FC)