ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Neill Collins closed out his coaching tenure with the Tampa Bay Rowdies with a fitting 3-0 victory over Oakland Roots SC in front of a sold-out Al Lang Stadium on night. Forward Cal Jennings stole the show with a hat trick, securing all the three points to move the Rowdies to the top of the Eastern Conference table.
“This has not been an easy week,” Collins said after the match. “The players have had all the excuses in the world to come here tonight and feel sorry for themselves. They do the opposite. To be sitting at the top of the table… I can go away with satisfaction that the Rowdies can go on from here and succeed.”
Jennings wasted no time opening the scoring, slotting a shot through the legs of keeper Paul Blanchette in the 8th minute off a pass from teammate Sebastian Dalgaard. As the halftime break neared, Jennings doubled the lead through a great bit of individual play. Receiving a pass near the halfway line from JJ Williams, Jennings danced his way past defenders and into the box before depositing another shot into the goal.
The 26-year-old attacker completed his hat trick in the 58th minute. Dalgaard offered the assist again, shaking off a defender at the right edge of the box and slipping a pass for Jennings to one-time past Blanchette at the near post.
“Today I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of a lot of great play from some teammates,” said Jennings. “Dalgaard had a fantastic game beating players on the wing. I just had to get open. Once you get rolling you never really want to stop scoring.”
Jennings has now scored in three straight matches, notching six goals in that span to bring his season total to eight. This scoring streak comes after weeks of being left out of the starting lineup.
Cal has shown real resilience,” said Collins. “I always picked what I thought was our best team. I’ve been picking him now because he’s shown he can be part of our best team. I’m so pleased for Cal and he’s only going to get better.
Rowdies keeper Connor Sparrow was also superb all match, producing five saves on the night to seal his fifth clean sheet of the season and Tampa Bay’s first since May 20.
The Rowdies will face their first test with Collins next Saturday, July 15 when they travel to face Birmingham Legion FC at Protective Stadium.
“Everything’s in place for this organization to grow,” said Collins. “This is one of the most sought after jobs not just in the US but the globe. I’ve been spoiled by an ownership group that knows how to give everything you need to succeed. I’ll go out and someone will come in and things will carry on as normal.”
TBR – Jennings (Dalgaard), 8th minute
TBR – Jennings (Williams), 41st minute
TBR – Jennings (Dalgaard), 58th minute
TBR: Sparrow, Antley, Guillen, Doherty, Ekra, Dalgaard, Dennis, Areman, Jennings, Williams
OAK: Blanchette, Wright, Barbie, Morad, Klimenta, Reid, Nane, Matsoso, Prentice, Formella, Mfeka