Ponoka’s Cam Kirstien tries to wrestle the control of the ball as he is pressured by two Manluk players during the first half of the cup championship game on Sunday

Ponoka’s Cam Kirstien tries to wrestle the control of the ball as he is pressured by two Manluk players during the first half of the cup championship game on Sunday

Comeback effort too little too late for Ponoka FC

Ponoka men's FC lose to Manluk in final trophy match.

After a double-double over the last two seasons, Ponoka’s representatives in the Battle River Men’s Soccer League ended their season without any trophies as they lost their league cup championship game against Manluk by a score of 2-0.

Ponoka FC were clearly not themselves at Sunday’s game and controversial officating only added to the woes of the defending champions as they had to resist a well-functioning Manluk team.

After an initial lacklustre 20 minutes when neither side could establish a meaningful control of the pitch, the hosts Manluk started to intensify their attacks on the Ponoka net with increasing frequency and efficiency. The Ponoka defence were challenged and tested time and again as they stopped waves of attacks coming from the Manluk side who deployed to the empty points of the pitch very quickly to create scoring opportunities.

Manluk’s ability to control and move the ball on the pitch, which they knew very well, started to put lots of pressure on both the Ponoka defence line and the goalkeeper Wouter Opsteen.

Although they managed to thwart several attacks, a momentary lapse in the 30th minute of the game brought the first goal to the hosts. As the Ponoka players were reeling from the shock, the second Manluk score followed in just three minutes.

The two-goal cushion beefed up the confidence of the hosts while it brought a decline in the morale of the visitors.

Ponoka players appeared to struggle to maintain possession until the end of the first half.

When the second half began, Ponoka side appeared to have revitalized their determination to win as they started to pass in a more targeted fashion with better coordination among the defence and offence lines.

Manluk, however, quickly adjusted their game plan to counter the new tactical changes in Ponoka side’s positioning on the field.

Despite that, Ponoka FC maintained their pressure and at some point won back-to-back corner kicks, but the killer hit was nowhere to come.

Ponoka’s Gurjit Sandhu was brought down in the 18-yard box of the Manluk net in one of the corner kicks but the referee kept the play going, which drew protests from Sandhu, which led to a yellow card. Minutes later, Sandhu was shown a second yellow and then the red card by the referee and sent off the field.

The move angered and fired up the Ponoka side and they kept attacking to create some great scoring opportunities but the Manluk goalie proved impassable.

Just one minute from time, Lewis McDowell was brought down in the 18-yard box but the referee just kept the game going.

Soccer excitement this weekend

While both the minor soccer and the men’s league have come to an end for the year, there is still some soccer exitement to come to Ponoka this weekend.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, teams from two provincial colleges, King’s University and Red Deer College men’s and women’s teams are to face off in Ponoka for exhibition games.

Lonny Behm, who organized the college showcase in Ponoka back in the spring, said with the connection they had established during that event, they had managed to have the exhibition games played in Ponoka.

He said Ponoka’s soccer facilities had drawn great admiration during the provincial event and the fact that the teams had agreed to come to town was an appreciation of the town’s investment in the facilities.

He said he hoped the exhibition games would become an annual event.

The first game kicks off at 11 a.m. and the next one at 1 p.m.