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Rowdies drop exhibition match, 1-0, against Jacksonville Armada

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As the regular season approaches, the Tampa Bay Rowdies defense is obviously ready.

The offense, however, could use a bit more effectiveness.

The Rowdies lost to the Jacksonville Armada Saturday in their next-to-last preseason game before the regular season, which begins March 25 against Orlando B. The Rowdies dominated much of the play, but could not finish.

Armada midfielder J.C. Banks scored the only goal of the match, just three minutes into the second half.

“Despite the result, the team continued to press and press, which is good as we continue to prepare for the home opener,” said Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell. “We need to continue to work on things ahead of March 25, but if we continue to create chances like we did tonight, we’ll find positive results.”

Trialist forward Martin Paterson had two chances in the first couple of minutes, but, as he was trying to capitalize on Armada’s defensive mistakes, the home club was able to put out the fire both times.

Jacksonville’s most dangerous chances came off two free kicks conceded by Rowdies defender Damion Lowe. Despite being in good positions, Jacksonville was unable to put either shot on frame.

As the second half began to settle down, Jacksonville found the only goal of the match via a great finish by Banks. After beating the offside trap, Banks was alone in front of goal and buried his shot past Rowdies trialist goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Rowdies midfielder Martin Vingaard nearly equalized in the 68th minute, firing a wonderful volley just inches wide. His volley jump-started the Rowdies’ offense, which searched tirelessly for the equalizer.

With just 15 minutes left, the best chance to equalize came via a header by defender Damion Lowe. A header from just outside the 6-yard box was denied from point-blank by Jacksonville goalkeeper Kyle Nastar.

Despite numerous corner kicks and crosses into the box, the Rowdies were unable to break a strong Armada defense, who held on for the 1-0 win.

“On any other night, we would’ve [scored] three or four goals, but it didn’t happen for us tonight,” said Campbell. “We need to look ahead to next Saturday and see what we need to improve as it’s our final test before our home opener against Orlando.”

The Rowdies will be in action next Saturday, March 18, when they travel to play Miami FC of the North American Soccer League. The match will kick off at 11 a.m. at St. Thomas University.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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