ST. PETERSBURG — After a brutal week in which they were shut out in both road matches, the Rowdies needed to get back on track Saturday night against rival Fort Lauderdale.
Thanks to two second-half goals and a clutch penalty kick save by goalkeeper Matt Pickens, Tampa Bay got a much-needed three points in a 2-1 win over the Strikers in front of 4,997 at Al Lang Stadium.
"After two tough losses on the road, you want to come back home and win three or four to nil," Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell said. "But it's not like that. You have to grind it out. We showed great character."
The Rowdies improved to 6-5-6 overall and got their second win of the fall season. The Strikers fell to 5-8-4.
The Rowdies had three top-notch scoring chances in the first five minutes of the second half then finally converted in the 50th minute.
Joe Cole settled a pass on the right corner of the field and chipped a ball into the 18-yard box. The pass sailed over a Strikers defender and onto the foot of Keith Savage. Savage took a left-footed shot from just outside the left goal mouth that ticked off keeper Bruno's glove, hit the crossbar and landed just over the goal line to make it 1-0.
"I was in the right place at the right time," Savage said. "I'm glad it went in because I should've scored a few before that. I got a lucky bounce for it to land at my feet. It was a great pass from Joe."
Cole got into the scoring action in the 57th minute. The goal was set up by Georgi Hristov, who darted near the right end line before angling a pass to Cole 15 yards from goal. His shot nicked off a Strikers defender and settled into the left side of the net. It was Cole's fourth goal since joining the Rowdies in May.
"It was a great pass from Georgi," Cole said. "He worked his socks off. This was a massive win. It steadies the ship."
With more than 30 minutes still to play, the ship almost sunk.
In the 71st minute, the Strikers found the net when Jose Angulo got behind the Rowdies defense. Adrianinho lofted a perfect pass to Angulo, who took an uncontested shot from 10 yards out that beat Pickens.
In the 75th minute, the Rowdies were called for a hand ball in the 18-yard box, which set up a penalty kick. Adrianinho took the shot. After making a few stutter steps, his left-footed shot went low and right. Pickens dived the right way and deflected the ball away from goal.