Charleston Battery defender Shawn Ferguson’s audacious backheel from a corner that was the winner as the Battery came away with a 1-0 victory in a Southern Derby against the Wilmington Hammerheads.
The first 30 minutes were sun-drenched and cautious from both sides, but it was the touch of class from the Battery captain that settled it. The win was the Black and Yellow’s third on the bounce, and moves them into a tie for second place with New York Red Bulls II, though NYRB have a game in hand.
Wilmington loanee Casey Townsend had the first chance of the evening, after latching onto a ball played into the box, but his shot went helplessly over the bar and never troubled Odisnel Cooper.
Jon Smits at the other end was forced into his first save of the evening after Romario Williams turned his man in the box and fired toward goal, but the shot lacked venom and was saved easily by the goalkeeper.
The 18 or so minutes following that were spent with both teams passing back and forth in midfield, trying and failing to unlock each other’s defenses. the closest anyone came to a goal was a 23rd minute cross into the box that was wafted in with a little too much height and collected easily by Cooper for the Battery. The game had lulled a little, and it would take something different to open things up.
And Battery captain Shawn Ferguson took that as an opportunity. Romario Williams earned his team a corner in the 32nd minute, taking the ball from the left of the penalty area and firing toward goal, forcing Smits to palm the ball behind with a diving save. It was Justin Portillo who would play the ball in, and after a possible flick on from the first man, Ferguson met the ball with an agile flick of the boot to redirect the ball and give the away side the advantage.
The goal did seem to come out of nowhere, but the Battery have shown many a time before that they are dangerous from set pieces, and this time it was Wilmington who paid the price for failing to mark well. It was Ferguson’s first goal of the year, and meant that no less than 10 players have found their way onto the scoresheet for the Battery in their first 10 games of the year, as if we needed anymore evidence that the Battery are multidimensional.
The game did need a goal, and it began to open up a bit more after that. Mael Corboz’ free kick was played in from the right, and cleared away before being brought down on the wing and eventually falling to Austin Martz, whose shot curled away from goal after initially looking dangerous, and went out for a goal kick.
And so the Battery went in at half-time 1-0 up, though the game in truth, was pretty even. Wilmington of course would have to come out a bit more in the second half, which could open up more space for the Battery, especially knowing how dangerous they could be on the counter.
But it wasn’t until the 52nd minute that the Battery got their next chance. Romario Williams made his way out to the middle of the D, and shaped up for a shot before he was fouled, but the referee played the advantage well as the ball popped out to Zach Prince, who played Maikel Chang on the wing, before his layoff to Ricky Garbanzo led to a smart save by John Smits for Wilmington, but the ensuing corner led to naught.
But on 55′, Wilmington had a dangerous chance of their own, when a corner was played deep and back across, but couldn’t find the onrushing attacker’s outstretched leg and went out for a goal kick.
Just before the hour mark, another Hammerheads corner led only to a scary looking counter for the Battery, spearheaded by Ricky Garbanzo, but he was taken down just short of midfield and a foul was given. The defender had to take one for the team, but was lucky that there were team mates close to him or the foul could have ended his evening.
In the 72nd minute Romario Williams came off to be replaced by Heviel Cordoves, which is something Wilmington fans don’t like to see. This was Cordoves’ first appearance since the 9th of April, after being sidelined through a neck problem.
And on 79′, things would get worse for Wilmington. Dante Marini, who replaced Garbanzo a few minutes earlier, had the beating of his man, Liam Miller on the far side going down the wing. Had he not been fouled, the winger would have been through on goal, but unlike the previous foul on Garbanzo at around midfield, Miller’s challenge resulted in a red card as he was the last man that prevented Marini from a goalscoring opportunity, which meant the home side would have to play the last ten minutes and change with 10 men.
And Marini would cause problems again just a couple seconds later, this time popping up on the left and playing in an inch perfect ball reminiscent of the goal Romario Williams scored last week. This time, however, it was Heviel Cordoves on the receiving end, but Smits was there to make the save, and the ensuing corner was cleared. You’d actually think that perhaps a fully fit Cordoves would’ve doubled the lead for the visitors, but not this time.
The Battery could have had a penalty a couple of minutes later, when Justin Portillo played Attaula Guerra, who like Cordoves was just coming back from injury. Guerra did well to turn his man but went down under a challenge from the defender on the inside edge of the box, though the referee decided against pointing to the spot.
Mael Corboz had a crack with four minutes to go that went hopelessly wide off the mark without troubling Cooper, but there would be one last chance for the home side to equalize.
It came from a bit of a Battery mistake as the ball wasn’t cleared in Odisnel Cooper’s penalty area, but there was no space for anyone to bring the ball down, which resulted in a bit of head tennis before the ball was directed on goal by a Wilmington head. The dipping effort had the ‘keeper scrambling backward, but ended up on the roof of the net, belying the home fans who thought the ball had dropped over the ‘keeper and gone in.
So, it was a bit of magic that settled a fairly even game. The Hammerheads are always a tough opponent for the Battery, and even in the midst of a slump like the one they’re on, tend to bring an extra level in games against their Southern Rival, but for the second time this year, it was the Black and Yellow who prevailed.
The next match is at home against Eastern Conference leaders Louisville City FC. Kick off is at 7:30.
Top Image: Taylor Meuller seals the Battery’s first win against Wilmington back in April with a header from a corner at the death. Credit: Ross Almers Photography