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Tampa Bay Rowdies fall, 3-1, to undefeated Carolina Railhawks

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This time, the goaltender didn’t stop the penalty kick.

This time, the defense wasn’t sharp for the entire game.

This time, the second-half goal wasn’t enough for the victory.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies lost their first game of the NASL season, 3-1 to the Carolina RailHawks and fell seven points behind in the NASL race after only four games. The Rowdies gave up a goal just before the half, and just after, and then surrendered a goal to former player Brian Shriver in its disappointing effort.

“I’m very disappointed with the goals we conceded,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “Starting with the first one, we didn’t apply enough pressure further up the field, which I asked for. They cut through us and we weren’t marking tight enough in the area. There could have been two or three of them to tap it in.

“Then on the second goal, we should have just cleared the ball instead of trying to get fancy.”

That two-goal lead seemed like a steep enough mountain, but the Rowdies took a penalty in the box in the 86th minute. Shriver, whose option was not picked up by Tampa Bay in the off-season, converted the penalty kick against Matt Pickens this time.

“I hit it with confidence,” Shriver said. “I waited for him to move, and I went the other way. It’s always good to score your first goal. Not because it’s against the Rowdies, but my friends and family were here.”

The Rowdies had drawn to within 2-1 in the 65th minute on a goal by Tamika Mkandawire. In the 73rd minute, Tommy Heinemann got free. He was knocked off balance by Marcelin in the 18-yard box. Heinemann stumbled on his feet long enough to shoot, but his effort was saved by Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

“I thought maybe Tommy was a little bit too honest because there was definite contact and he could have gone down,” Campbell said. “I don’t tell my players (to go down.) There was contact in the area and Tommy could have gone down if he chose, but he chose to try and fight the guy off. Obviously, when he did that, he lost a yard or two of space that he had.”

The Rowdies have only three goals in four games. They travel to Fort Lauderdale Saturday, then they’re off for a week.

“It’s never good to lose,” Mkandawire said. “I thought we let ourselves down. We’ve got to be better in both boxes and make the most of our opportunities in front of goal. Both goals they had tonight, we gave them. We’ve got to clean it up and tighten up. For me, I think the penalty was very, very harsh. We controlled the play and we’re disappointed not to make more of the opportunities we created.”

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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