ST. PETERSBURG — For much of the match the Rowdies controlled play Saturday, but the window in and around halftime dented their hopes of knocking off NASL-leading Carolina.
The RailHawks scored right at 45 minutes, then made it 2-0 a minute after the second-half kickoff en route to a 3-1 victory before an announced 5,948 at Al Lang Stadium. The RailHawks have four wins in as many matches.
"Very disappointed with the goals we conceded. They definitely weren't peppering our goal," Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said of Carolina, which had six shots to his team's 10.
Tampa Bay (1-1-2, five points) tried to rally, but Carolina put the game away in the 87th minute when former Rowdie Brian Shriver converted a penalty kick. Tampa Bay had allowed just one goal on the season before Saturday.
Against a team not known for its defense Tampa Bay managed just one tally — on its first shot on goal, in the 65th minute, as two defenders provided the spark. Neill Collins' pass came to Tam Mkandawire, who volleyed it home from the top of the penalty box.
Not long after, a poor header by Carolina's defense served a perfect through ball to Tampa Bay's Tommy Heinemann. He got a step ahead of the defender to get off a potential tying shot, but goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald saved it.
Campbell suggested if Heinemann had fallen to the ground, such as Carolina did on its putaway score, the Rowdies would have gotten a PK attempt.
"He might have been too honest. He could have gone down, but he tried to fight off the defender and as a result lost a yard or two," Campbell said.
In the 80th minute, after a strong push by sub Walter Ramirez led to a corner kick, Heinemann's flick went just a few feet wide.
Up 1-0, Carolina pressed from the second-half kickoff and was rewarded when midfielder Nazmi Albadawi's cross perfectly set up defender James Marcelin's goal for a 2-0 lead.
"I felt we controlled the play," Mkandawire said, adding that he thought the penalty call that sent Carolina on its way was "very, very harsh."
The Rowdies had the bulk of dangerous possessions in the first half, with midfielder Kalif Alhassan often proving a threat on the left. But the RailHawks broke through late on a steady buildup, one of its few. Defender Paul Black slotted a cross to Alex Perez that the midfielder rifled into the top of the net in the 45th minute.
"You should see the half off there. We had a mental shutdown," Mkandawire said.