The Carolina Railhawks managed to hold the Tampa Bay Rowdies to a scoreless draw despite the Railhawks going down to 10 men very late. New signing, Paul Hamilton, was the man of the match for the Railhawks and made quite an impressive showing before being showed a soft second yellow for colliding heads with a Rowdie player. For most of the game, the Railhawks seemed content to sit back and let the Rowdies attack with only the occasional break forward. The Railhawks certainly missed their leading scorer Nick Zimmerman who did not even make the bench today. Carolina will certainly be happy with the point and their new defensive signing, but should certainly be worried about their offensive performance.
Prior to the kickoff of the first game the Rowdies welcomed back their former goalkeeper, Jeff Attinella, now a Real Salt Lake player, for the unveiling of the their 2012 NASL Championship banner that he helped the team win with his performances. (Unfortunately for Jeff, he was at the Rowdies game and not playing for Real Salt Lake against the Colorado Rapids.) Nine of of the players that took the field alongside Attinella for the final last year returned this year for Tampa Bay, so the Railhawks would have expected a tough test.
The first half was all Tampa Bay and the Railhawks were lucky to make it through scoreless. In the 16th minute, the Rowdies had a goal called back for offsides from a set piece. This failed to wake up the Railhawk offense and their first shot on goal did not occur until the 22nd minute. Turnovers seemed to be the name of the game for the Railhawks midfield and they had quite a bit of trouble linking passes together. Akira Fitzgerald and Paul Hamilton kept the Railhawks alive with their performances. Midway though the half, Fitzgerald managed to get a piece of shot that was curling into the upper corner from a set piece by Luke Mulholland. In the 38th minute, he made another great save of a header that was flicked far post by Amani Walker. New signing Paul Hamilton, too, did not disappoint and he made several great tackles in 1v1 situations. The first half ended with the Railhawks having only 4 shots compared to Tampa Bay’s 9.
The Railhawks came out stronger in the second half and they had spells of better offensive possession, and even a period with three corners back to back. They failed to convert any of these chances, however, and game remained more or less even for most of the half. Emotions started to get the better of both teams, though, and when Luke Mulholland was given a yellow for his harsh challenge on Railhawk’s Brian Shriver, Austin Da Luz retaliated by shoving and got himself booked too. In the 80th minute, Raphael Cox shoved Paul Hamilton, and Paul shoved him back back, so both players were booked.
With emotions running high, Tampa Bay seemed to be knocking at the door in the dying minutes of the second half. In the 87th minute, Austen King made a goal line clearance after the ball bumbled around in the box and Fitzgerald could not latch on. A few minutes later, Fitzgerald came way out of position to clear a through ball in the middle of the field only to have the Tampa Bay player play the ball past him looking directly at an open net. Luckily for the Railhawks, a defensive player managed to clear the ball at the last second. With three minutes of stoppage time added to the game, it looked like the Railhawks were going to squeak by with a draw.
But more drama was to come. In the 91st minute, Paul Hamilton rushed out of the box to clear a floating cross at the 20 yard line and collided heads with a Rowies’ player, both players immediately went down in agony holding their heads. The referee gave Hamilton his second yellow, as he laid on the ground. The yellow was certainly harsh as both players were trying to play the ball. Down to 10 men, the Railhawks did not have to do much to defend the resulting set piece, as Luke Mulholland sent it well into orbit and harmlessly out of play. The next two minutes were ugly soccer with the Railhawks content on clearing the ball as fast and as far as possible. The game ended 0-0. After the match Colin Clarke expressed dismay at referee’s decision in awarding a second yellow to Hamilton, and frankly said he “didn’t rate him”, but was very impressed with Hamilton’s play.
The Rowdies and the Railhawks have now tied their last 5 regular season games with the Railhawks record against the Rowdies remaining more or less unchanged at 5-3-6.
The Railhawks next match is at home on April 13th against FC Edmonton. Paul Hamilton is suspended one match for his two yellow cards and is not available to face his former club.