The Battery took all three points on their travels as they won this season’s first Southern Derby against the Charlotte Independence.
It wasn’t easy, especially given a bit of a slow start for the visitors, who found it difficult to possess the ball in the early goings. The failure to possess led to some early half-chances for Charlotte, but the two sides went in at half time all square. It wasn’t until the second half, and a bit of individual skill from Romario Williams, that the deadlock was broken. The center forward failed to get on the end of a sailing Quinton Griffith cross, but stayed lively in the box as it was passed to him after the ball stayed in on the opposite side. He beat his man with strength and a little swivel before slotting the ball home on the turn.
Shortly after, the Black and Yellow would double their lead, as Attaula Guerra would draw a foul about 25 yards from goal. Justin Portillo would send in a trademark ball to Forrest Lasso, who snapped a header toward goal that was too much for the ‘keeper to handle, even getting a hand to it before the ball would nestle its way into the top corner.
But the game could’ve just as easily gone down a different path. Despite some early nerves, it was the home side who had the better of the opening chances. Alex Tambakis was forced into action after 18 minutes, when Jorge Herrera turned eventual goalscorer Lasso on the edge of the box and forced the goalkeeper into a smart save down to his left at the expense of a corner, but it would be cleared.
Herrera would again be on the end of things on 28′, but this time from a crossing position, when his ball flashed across the six yard box, only to come out the other end and be cleared.
But the Battery couldn’t seem to ease the pressure, when on 34′, Forrest Lasso would have to stretch to clear a cross away with a striker in the middle, though the corner that followed was wasted by the home side.
Lasso would find his head on the ball at the other end three minutes later as he was the target of a free kick, though his effort went wide, and the linesman’s flag went up, meaning it wouldn’t have stood even the chance had gone in.
Romario Williams had what was probably the Battery’s best chance of the first 45 with four minutes left, getting on the end of a great ball on the right side and beating his marker, but clearly had blinders on as he took the shot and skied the effort over the bar, even though he had a man that he could play the ball to on his right. He couldn’t really be begrudged the attempt though, given that he was showing a typical striker’s instinct in that his first thought would be to go for goal. In a derby, and especially the way the game was going, that was a welcome sight, even though the shot was off target, as it meant that the Battery weren’t afraid to have a go given the opportunity.
Having said that, the scores would remain level as we went into half-time, and the Battery still hadn’t created much. They would have to make adjustments during the break if they wanted to gain anything from the match.
And an early second half chance created by Dante Marini and laid off to Naveal Hackshaw would force the Charlotte ‘keeper into a save, and however easy, it signaled a shift in intent that would be crucial as the game went on.
They would build on that early chance when, just a minute later, Romario Williams would latch onto a ball down the line and go one on one at pace with his marker, Bilal Duckett, beating him to the ball whilst being dragged back. There was a slight pull on him outside the box, and then a pull that sent him to the ground inside. The referee would blow the play up after the second pull, but instead of pointing to the spot, he gave the visitors a free kick on the edge of the box, issuing Duckett a yellow card.
Williams and Duckett went at it for the full 90 minutes, Duckett being Charlotte’s captain and an experienced defender against the Battery’s preferred center forward, with pace and strength to boot. However, the Charlotte skipper was lucky not to be in warmer waters than the ref made it out to be, given that the rule pertaining to the situation in question, where a foul starts outside the box and continues into the penalty area, states that a foul beginning outside and continuing into the box should be given as a penalty, and not a free kick in the original spot of the foul, meaning that the referee made the wrong decision.
Regardless, Justin Portillo set the ball up at the left edge of the box in a dangerous area, but would waste the opportunity, hitting the ball into the wall, and the ball deflected off the defenders would be wafted into the box, but to no avail as the ‘keeper would come and punch clear.
But a few minutes later, on 51’, an Attaula Guerra led counter would put the Battery on the attack. He would lay the ball off to Maikel Chang, who would in turn find the overlapping run of Quinton Griffith in a crossing position. Griffith’s cross however, would go begging, a little like the Charlotte chance earlier in the first half.
On 64′, another chance would go untaken as Naveal Hackshaw found himself on the end of a counter on the right edge of the box, before he picked his head up and found Williams at the back stick, but the striker couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and fluffed his lines.
Two minutes later, the Black and Yellow would almost live to regret the missed opportunity when Yann Ekra, who’s been a thorn in the Battery’s side before, sent a shot bouncing past the far post of Alex Tambakis’ goal. The visitors could thank their lucky stars that Ekra didn’t have his shooting boots on, as he’s more often than not libel to take those types of chances.
But on 70 minutes finally came a breakthrough, and for the visitors, as well as their 30 odd travelling support, it fell the right way.
Quinton Griffith, who had himself a solid game following a little bit of a bumpy preseason, was in a position to cross again from the right. The ball into the box would sail over anybody in a black and yellow shirt in the box, but hold up just enough on the other side for the chance to be recycled. A ball played short to the striker Williams would put him one on one with Duckett once again, and this time Williams would use his strength to shrug his defender off and turn just enough to get room to have a go from about ten yards out, which beat the ‘keeper, putting the Battery in front just before the hour mark, Williams’ individual effort making it a serious contender for goal of the week.
And from the Battery’s next real attack of the match, led by Attaula Guerra from a lung busting counter attack, the Battery would add a little bit of insurance. Guerra’s run would be brought to an end by Bilal Duckett, who injured himself in the process, forcing the Independence to tack on another defensive sub for the one they were already planning. The subs would then be introduced before Justin Portillo would take the controls for the dead ball, but no one was stopping what came next.
Portillo sent an inch perfect ball to Forrest Lasso, who had shrugged off his man and was free in the penalty area, just waiting for the chance to come, and so it did. He connected with the header with a snap of his neck as it found its way toward goal, and though the ‘keeper got a hand to it, it was too powerful for him to keep it out as it found its way into the top corner to put the Battery up 2-0.
The home side didn’t give up after the goal, however, and still were creating through to the final whistle, though their best chance came through Jorge Herrera, who at 36 is still causing problems for defenses at a respectable level. Herrera made his way down the middle of the field as we moved into the 80th minute, and would somehow find his way past three defenders and squirm a shot at goal. It had the ‘keeper, Tambakis, sprawling, but ultimately went wide of the mark.
And that’s how the game finished, with the Battery recording a 2-0 victory against Rivals Charlotte Independence. It was a game of few chances, but the visitors will be glad that they took theirs in a tough game at the very start of the season. The three points mean the travelling Charleston faithful could return home in good spirits as they prepare for the visit of Pittsburgh on the 8th of April. Kick off is at 7PM, and the match can be viewed on MyTV Charleston or at the club’s website.
TOP IMAGE: JUSTIN PORTILLO PLAYS IN A CORNER AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM LAST SEASON. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY