Match Report: Much Needed Three Points

When key players get injured, other players have to rise to the occasion. We have a few players who have raised their profile in recent matches, but none as clearly as Andrea Milanti. Four goals in the last three matches is a statement that leaves little for explanation. Yesterday he scored the winning goal, and once again showed how much he loves playing in front of supporters. His run towards us with kisses blowing in the air was the best moment of the day.

It was unfortunate that our away match against UrPS was played on one of the busiest weekends of the summer – busy in terms of things that have nothing to do with football that is. Our numbers took quite a heavy hit from this, but even still some 30 supporters occupied the southern end of the beautiful wooden stand at the Urjala Stadium. The home supporters stood in the other end as usual, and the vocal back and forth between the two groups created a great atmosphere from which players on both sides seemed to draw a lot of energy.

Urjala is a quaint little town of about 5000 inhabitants. Our time in town started with dropping off the players at the stadium and walking over to the only bar in town. They treated us well with cheap beer at the bar, and they even had good services at the stadium, complete with sausages and coffee, the cornerstones of any Finnish sports event. They also had printed match-day programs – a first for us in an away match since playing away at Pelikassit in May 2012. The crowd must have ranged between 100 and 150 people, which is very respectable for the level.

The match itself was a nervous affair for me. I had had a bad feeling about it the whole day, and by the time we passed the hour-mark at 0-0, I felt like this was going to be one of those where we just cannot get one in and end up dropping points. I was standing by a friend who had had the opposite feelings throughout the day, but at about 75 minutes even he admitted he was not too sure anymore. Luckily not much more than five minutes later we were both joking about this after Andrea Milanti had scored 0-1, and just a few minutes later Risto Niskanen scored the 0-2 goal that put everything beyond any doubt.

For me there were four players that stood out in this match. Jan Irjala continues to be our leader in central defence – that’s not to say I’m not eager to see Timo Kauppinen return to the team from his holiday, but it has been great to see Irjala rise to the occasion when Kauppinen has been away. And that is three of the last five matches, by the way, and in one of the other two Kauppinen played in central midfield rather than central defence. And don’t get me wrong, Irjala has played well all season long, but playing without Kauppinen who is one of the best center backs in Nelonen is a different ballgame altogether.

The other three stand-out players were the goal scorers Andrea Milanti and Risto Niskanen, as well as Mika Kytöviita who was involved in both goals and helped create a few other chances as well. Milanti had a couple other good chances before he scored, and seemed to inch closer with every chance he got. The last one before he scored looked like it was going in, but a defender was able to block it for a corner kick. Unlike Milanti who was in the starting lineup, Niskanen played a super-sub role. He added a lot to our offence, and indeed gave the final flick with his head for the goal that Milanti scored. Kytöviita’s cross seemed to be floating into empty space, but apparently Milanti was screaming for Niskanen to redirect the ball – and so he did with excellent results.

After the match the supporters and the team had ample time to mingle, and you rarely see a happier bunch of people. It was very important to get a win in this match – not only in terms of the table, but also because both supporters and the players needed the confidence boost after losing key players to injuries. A third match without a win would have been tough to handle – especially given that we won’t play again until almost two weeks from now. I had a chance to chat with the coaching duo, and they admitted that during the match they might have had a higher heart rate than the players on the field. For me though, this was reminiscent of the seasons when Tampere United won Finnish championships. It does work as reminder that in order to have success you need to turn a lot of tight matches into victories, and the nature of the game is that it will often have to happen very late in the match.

The road ahead has a matchless week where the players get to take some time off. After that we have a couple of matches that look like make-or-break time. First we play against NePa on a Thursday (the last day of July) and then we host VaKP at Pyynikki just two days later. These are both good teams that were still in promotion speculations just a few weeks ago – and at least NePa might still fancy getting back there. It will be a tough test for the team, to say the least.

UrPS – TamU-K 0-2 (0-0)
81 min Andrea Milanti 0-1
86 min Risto Niskanen 0-2

67 min Lauri Helenius, UrPS (caution)
84 min Vesa Suonsyrjä, TamU-K (caution)
90 min Kalle Heltonen, TamU-K (caution)