Nico Rittmeyer’s 92nd minute winner saw the Battery prevail on Sunday afternoon against North Carolina FC.
Tah Brian Anunga opened the scoring with a superb bit of individual effort late in the first half, before Nazmi Albadawi equalized after an onslaught of early second half pressure from the visitors.
That looked to be the way things would settle, despite some late huffing and puffing from the home side, but Nico Rittmeyer would meet a pinpoint Kyle Nelson cross deep in stoppage time to give his side a much needed victory.
Zeiko Lewis would produce the game’s first shot in earnest after 11 minutes, though it was audacious from a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Trying to catch former Battery ‘keeper Alex Tambakis out at his near post, Lewis would curl the ball around the wall, but it would go wide of the target.
Kyle Nelson, who would be the provider for the game’s winning goal, would launch himself up on 20′ to meet a cross at the back post from a corner, but his header back across would only skew off the side of his head and wide.
The Battery would have much of the possession in the middle of the first half, with only wasted set pieces to show for it. That was until, with one minute of normal time to go in the first half, Tah Brian Anunga would do well to win not only one, but two challenges in midfield. The ball would then bounce fortunately for him just outside the box, creating a 1v1 with Tambakis in goal, and he would take a touch before opening his body up and firing into the top corner.
For their dominance in the half, the goal was deserved, and Anunga’s hard work was rewarded with the bounce, and the Battery found themselves in front at the break.
There were no substitutions for either side at the break, but Dave Sarachan’s team talk seemed to be the most effective, as North Carolina came out in the second half firing.
Steven Miller would force Joe Kuzminsky into a good save on the left after latching onto a ball up the wing with just a minute gone, before a cross caused havoc from the right, and would’ve led to a goal if not for the Battery defense tracking back to clear the ball from the shadow of their own goal line.
But only a short time later, that pressure would tell. It was down that right side again, but this time, instead of being whipped across the face of goal, it was pulled back to Nazmi Albadawi in line with the penalty spot, and he was able to slot it home to draw the visitors level.
It was a goal eerily similar to the one given up against Atlanta in midweek, the short cross pulled back, taking Kuzminsky out of the play, but it had been coming, and the Battery were punished for an admittedly poor start to the half.
It could’ve gotten worse on 51′, as a short NCFC corner was crossed in toward the back post, but a header would go wide without troubling Kuzminsky.
A Battery corner just past the hour mark could’ve caused trouble when it was flicked on at the near post by Taylor Mueller, but the backheel only found the base of the post and went out of play.
This is when the game began to shift back into the home side’s favor. The Battery knew they needed the three points, but their opponents were proving a tough nut to crack. They had to go forward and create to make it happen, something that they’ve been guilty of not doing in recent weeks, having been mired in a run of bad form.
Shortly following the chance, Nico Rittmeyer would replace Dante Marini, a like for like change, but a necessary one following a quiet day for Marini.
After 68′, Kyle Nelson would rise highest to meet a corner played in toward the back post, but his header back across goal would be saved by Tambakis.
Ataulla Guerra would replace Vincenzo Candela on 79′, a clear sign of attacking intent, bringing off a defensive midfielder to put on another striker, and he was creative with his first few touches.
He would latch on to a header from the left of the penalty area, but not be able to turn and get a shot off as he was quickly closed down. He would instead lay off to Zeiko Lewis at the top of the box, but Lewis would drag his shot wide.
The game looked as if it was destined for a draw, a disastrous result for both teams, but after 92′, the Battery would have the final say.
The Black and Yellow would earn a corner on the left of the area that was cleared away, but not far enough, as they would reclaim high in midfield.
The ball would then eventually find the feet of Kyle Nelson, whose pinpoint cross would be met by Nico Rittmeyer at the front post, as the winger was able to keep on target and past Tambakis to put the home side back in front with just two minutes to go.
And despite the visitors putting some last gasp pressure on, the final whistle would blow, giving the Battery a much needed, and deserved three points.
It was the first time the Battery had scored more than one goal in a game since mid-August, in the win over Loudon United, though it keeps them in 11th position in the Eastern Conference, a point behind Birmingham Legion in the last playoff spot.
The Battery have been incredibly unlucky on and off the pitch in the past few months, but got a stroke of luck to open the scoring, while earning a late goal back after being on the recieving end of such heartbreak in recent weeks themselves.
In the end, they dug deep when it counted, and got the win they needed, especially at home. The win also gave them this year’s edition of the Southern Derby Cup for the ninth time, having last won the fan-run honor in 2017.
The Battery next face New York Red Bulls II on Friday, September 27th, with kick off set for 7:30.
FEATURED IMAGE: NICO RITTMEYER CELEBRATES AFTER PUTTING HIS TEAM IN FRONT IN STOPPAGE TIME. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO