On Sunday, 4th place Simcoe County Rovers travelled to Oakville to face 3rd place Blue Devils FC. The Devils were buoyed by a superb midweek victory over leaders Scrosoppi at the Soccer Centre and were aiming to put some daylight between them and the rest of the playoff pack. Rovers were coming off the back of a big win at North Mississauga and the match had all the makings of a classic.
The Blue Devils had the better of the opening exchanges before Jevontae Layne won the ball on the edge of the area, turned and fired the ball past the Blue Devils keeper to give the away side a 4th minute lead much to the delight of their sizeable travelling support. That spurred on both teams and a gripping first half ended with Rovers holding a slight advantage thanks to Baj Maan in the Rovers goal making some key saves.
The second half started much the same way of the first half with end to end football with Blue Devils having more of the play. Then in the 52nd minute Mathew Santos gave the home side a deserved equalizer. The match gained even more momentum and then in the 61st minute Ijah Halley, who was a constant threat down the right wing all afternoon, got the better of his marker down the right wing and centered the ball to Orlendis Benitez who slotted the ball into an open net to give the visitors the lead again.
The breakneck pace did not stop and the game got scrappy in the sense that tackles were flying and tempers were getting frayed on and off the itch with the Blue Devils bench getting a yellow card after protesting a decent penalty shout which was turned down. That was how the match stayed until the 89th minute when Shawn-Claud Lawson broke down the left and pulled the ball back for Benitez to get his second of the afternoon to put the Rovers into a 3-1 lead.
Then, just as 4th official Amanda Kwan put up the 5 minutes of added time Blue Devils substitute Marcus Riviere smashed home their 2nd to give them a bit of life. That was soon snuffed out when Lawson again broke clear down the left and this time he went alone and struck home the 4th much to the delight of the bench and the travelling fans.
When the referee blew the final whistle, he called time on one of the most pulsating matches seen this year and it was a fantastic advert for League1 Ontario. The Rovers players, bench and fans erupted as this was a huge win for the club leaving them 2 points behind Blue Devils and Vaughan Azzurri.
This match was only the 4th time since the Blue Devils joined the League in 2015 that they have conceded 4 or more goals at home in the regular season. Also, Orlendis Benitez scored his 15th of the season when he bagged his second of the match. This equals the regular season tally of last seasons top scorer Ethan Beckford. Orlendis was also named to the League1 Ontario Team of the Week for the 9th time this season.
Rovers’ next match is the start of a huge week to end the season when they travel to Darby on Friday night. Kick off at the Whitby Soccer Centre Dome is 8pm. Following on from that they face North Toronto Nitros at Downsview Park on Wednesday at 9pm. They close their regular season campaign at Birchmount Stadium on Saturday the 19th against Alliance United. Again, the kick off is at 9pm.