Despite a sleepy first half in which neither team created much, the season’s last Southern Derby game ended up being an entertaining one, as the Charleston Battery sneaked past the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night.
Maikel Chang‘s tap in after Attaulah Guerra laid it on a plate midway through the second half turned out to be what settled the scores, but Charlotte could also feel somewhat aggrieved that a shot which cannoned off the crossbar, and on further inspection, looked to have crossed the line, wasn’t given as a goal by the referee later on in the second 45, which just might have changed the game. Although the Battery did have a few more chances afterward in the closing stages, and might feel that they could’ve won by more.
Members of Jack’s Militia, the Charlotte fan club, were down for the match, looking to make the most of what was to be the final Southern Derby fixture of the year. There were said to be about 15 to 20 making the short trip south for the match, most making a weekend of the occasion.
For the Battery, it was Guerra up front, behind the withdrawn forward of Ricky Garbanzo to start the match, while Dante Marini started in place of Zach Prince, and Alex Tambakis was in goal for the Black and Yellow. Leading scorer Romario Williams, Chris Tsonis and Heviel Cordoves all started on the bench, but all three would see minutes as the Battery looked for a foothold in the late season playoff push.
The Battery earned a corner taken by Justin Portillo and put straight in on the Charlotte Goalkeeper John Berner, who did well to punch away before the move broke down as Dante Marini committed a foul.
A mistake by Marini in midfield led to Charlotte’s first attempt of the evening, as on 11 minutes, Alex Tambakis was forced into one of a few good saves to stop a long range effort.
A Battery corner a couple minutes later was cleared, but the ball sat up for the onrushing Justin Portillo to have a pop, though the effort went high and wide.
Then, on 34′ was probably the Battery’s best chance of the first half, when a cleared corner came straight back out to Portillo, who put a ball into a place where no ‘keeper could dare come for it, and no defender could get to, but the onrushing Attaulah Guerra misjudged it an was coming down from the attempted header before the ball had come to him. It was truly unlucky for the home side, as you felt if he’dve gotten anything on the ball, it would’ve opened the scoring. Charlotte, meanwhile, could breathe a sigh of relief.
The game really hadn’t come to life by time the half time whistle blew, and you got the sense that it really needed a goal to do so.
At half time, the 1996 USISL Championship winning team were honored. This being the 20th anniversary of their triumph, which was the first of four championships that the Battery have won, with the tribute being capped off with a video from then-player, now manager, Mike Anhaeuser which was played on the Jumbotron. It was a testament to how much history the club has, as well as how far it’s come in the years since its first title.
As things wrapped up in the half time festivities, the two teams were back out on the pitch and ready to go, and it was Charlotte who would have the first chance of the second half.
Brian Brown, who has established himself as more than just a little threat this year, latched onto a perfectly weighted through ball in the 47th minute, but with only Tambakis to beat, shanked the effort wide. It was a chance you would’ve put your house on him to score, and this time it was the home side breathing a sigh of relief.
But they would right the ship quickly, and just three minutes later, would fashion a chance of their own. Attaulah Guerra would turn his man on the edge of the box, before running at the Charlotte backline. Beating them for pace, he could’ve taken a shot himself, but picked his head up and saw a open man in the middle of the box, which was Maikel Chang, who slotted the ball home to open the scoring.
As expected, the game began to open up a little more, and the visitors suddenly came to life, with Brian Brown getting some space just two minutes after the goal and expertly finding Enzo Martinez in the box, but the shot cannoned off the crossbar.
And then, two minutes after that, Brown went through again, but this time, Alex Tambakis would come and shut the angle of a shot down, and while Brown was able to get a dangerous looking cross away, it was cleared by the Battery defense.
Just past the hour mark, Brown again was given time to turn and shoot, but the effort from distance went wide.
And then came the moment of controversy in the 72nd, when Yann Ekra, a second half sub who was beginning to impact the game more and more as time went on, had a long range effort rattle the underside of the bar and bounce down and out. Given the replay on the jumbotron, everyone could clearly see the ball had crossed the line before bouncing harmlessly into the arms of Tambakis, but the referee remained oblivious, and surely missed one there.
With 12 to go, Quinton Griffith used a bit of trickery to get past his man and to the byline, but the defender did well to get back at him and deflect the cross out for a corner. The corner from the right somehow found its way to Naveal Hackshaw, but the ball seemed to take a bobble as his shot went over the bar.
On 82′ Charlotte earned a corner that was looking dangerous, but the ball was headed wide.
And two minutes later, a Charlotte cross was poorly cleared by the Battery onto Yann Ekra’s boot, but his shot went over the bar.
On 87′ Yann Ekra’s shot on the turn was saved by Alex Tambakis, and the ensuing corner led to a counter, spearheaded by Romario Williams. Williams would beat his defender for pace before having a shot, but his effort would go wide.
The last chance game fell to Brian Brown, who brought down a clearance and shot on the volley, but the effort went narrowly wide.
The final whistle blew shortly after, giving the Battery an all important late season three points in the hunt for a playoff spot, as well as retaining the Southern Derby Cup.
The Battery next travel to Richmond to take on the Richmond Kickers on Wednesday, August 31st. The match kicks off at 7:00 PM.
TOP IMAGE: SHAWN FERGUSON WINS THE BALL IN AN EARLY CHALLENGE AS THE BATTERY WON AGAINST CHARLOTTE. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY