On the cool, blustery evening of September the 11th, the Gates County Red Barrons traveled to Manteo to begin the 2017 conference play. Aside from a few strong gust of wind, it was a perfect evening for a soccer match. Manteo was just coming off a convincing 6-0 victory over Hatteras just three days prior, and seemingly should be riding the momentum into the match up. Despite the opening of conference play, the home field advantage, and the assumed wave of momentum, Manteo would come out flat.
The first half began, and Manteo quickly took possession and would dominate possession throughout the entire game. Again, as the previous game, Manteo was slow to clean up their passing game early on, as the connecting of multiple passes was just off here and there. The Red Barrons sat back atop their box in a strong defensive shape. Manteo was awarded favorable space throughout the midfield to pass and maintain the ball. Upon reaching the final defensive third of the Red Barrons, the away team would then look to tighten up the pressure on the ball. This style of play allowed Manteo seemingly unending opportunities to score throughout the first half, however, the teams would enter halftime at 0-0. Manteo’s lack of focus and intensity was engendering an unsuccessful steady run of not finishing the ball in the back of the net. So much so, that Manteo had three scoring opportunities inside the six-yard box with a seemingly open goal, that sent the ball sailing over the crossbar somehow. Letting the Red Barrons hang around could prove to be a drastic mistake as they do have a couple strikers up top that are highly capable of finishing a well-placed strike.
During halftime, Manteo would regroup, digress their tactics, and come out a bit more fired up to finish the job. The Redskins tightened up their passing triangles throughout the midfield, working the ball down easily each time. Going into the attacking third of the pitch in the second half, Manteo seemed more determined to finish an opportunity, and there were opportunities abound. Yet, it still was not happening for Manteo as they grew frustrated and the Red Barrons grew optimistic about their chances.
Finally, with just under 20 minutes to play in the second half, Manteo would get on the scoreboard. Eric Hernandez made an outward track to receive the ball wide on the right, got his defender down near the end-line and played a hard and low ball into the six-yard box. The goalie was there, but he mishandled it, allowing Randal Klotz to step over and slide it into the back of the net.
Manteo would ride that momentum of their first goal, as the intensity picked up even more. Surely, they wanted one more to seal the deal. With ten minutes remaining, Eric Hernandez would take it upon himself to finish off the game. Again, receiving the ball out wide, Hernandez would beat four defenders while tracking into the middle of the box. Hernandez would then finish with a low finish near post. Hernandez had peppered the goal all night long, but they had all sailed high. This time, his brilliant run was capped off by a clever finish. Manteo would go on to win 2-0.
Manteo would record 43 shots on goal in the game, with 17 of them on target. Manteo keeper, Trent Jones Jr. would only be called upon to make three saves in the game.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “We got the result we wanted. We won and kept the shutout. However, it was not an impressive performance by any means as our focus and intensity was clearly lacking, which allowed the Red Barrons to hang in the game with us when we could have placed the game out of reach early. We will move on and get ready to take on Camden on Wednesday night.”
Game photography: http://www.leftfieldphotography.com/f714922517