A Mauro Cichero goal in the 96th minute is what earned the Charleston Battery a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night.
It was the middle game in the Battery’s first three game week since the restart, and there was bound to be some change, however, the one enforced change saw Rennico Clarke make his first appearance in Black and Yellow since this fixture was played in March, replacing the suspended Jarad van Schaik who picked up a red card in the loss to Tampa Bay at the weekend.
There were also changes at both full back spots as AJ Paterson and Kyle Nelson started, whilst Kierron Mason partnered Robbie Crawford in a double pivot at the base of the midfield. Stavros Zarokostas, goalscorer Cichero and Romario Piggott further forward looked to supply striker Arthur Bosua up front, meaning there were only spots on the bench for Zeiko Lewis and Nicque Daley.
Atlanta striker Mackie Diop fashioned the first chance of the evening on eight minutes, sending a cross from the left of the box over the bar without troubling goalkeeper Phil Breno.
The Battery’s first chance at the other end came after a quarter of an hour, when a ball played in toward Mauro Cichero from Romario Piggott looked to have put the midfielder free on goal, but a last ditch challenge from Jack Gurr sent the ball back to his goalkeeper before the Battery could take a shot.
On 24′, Cichero was involved again as Robbie Crawford’s cross from a free kick was headed away, but only into Cichero’s path, though his shot went over the bar.
After 37′, Kyle Nelson rose highest to meet a Battery corner from the left, but the effort failed to trouble the keeper as it went over the bar.
The hosts came into the game as we got closer to half time, and in the 41st minute, Boubacarr Njie’s speculative, curling effort from all of 40 yards asked questions of Breno in the Battery goal, but ultimately found its way over the bar for a goal kick.
But Atlanta came even closer three minutes later. A tidy bit of buildup from Diop on the wing found Coleman Gannon, whose cross into the box from the left would eventually find Phillip Goodrum, who’s volleyed shot went wide.
And that’s how the half ended. It was a chippy sort of game, with very few chances, but as the team’s changed ends, they hoped that would change.
A Robbie Crawford free kick just after the break was the first real test for Ben Lundgaard in the Atlanta goal. The set piece from about 20 yards out on the left of goal looked destined for the top corner, but Lundgaard punched the ball behind for a corner, which was cleared away at the first attempt, but driven back in by Kierron Mason into a crowd of bodies, but Lundgaard was behind the effort to claim.
After 58′ Stavros Zarokostas was on the end of a bad giveaway and beat two defenders on the way into the box, but his slaloming run was stopped by a well timed last-man challenge that sent the ball into the ‘keepers arms.
On the hour mark, Robbie Crawford was running through midfield with menace, before offloading to Romario Piggott, who met AJ Paterson on the overlap as he found himself space in the box, but after receiving the 1-2 from his full back, put a shot wide to the right.
Almost from the next attack, Amir Bashti sent a headed effort wide from a cross on the right. It showed that while the Battery were fashioning the majority of chances, their opponents were definitely not out of it while the score was 0-0.
Angelo Kelly and Jay Bolt then replaced Keirron Mason and AJ Paterson in what were two like for like subs, but both players coming on were more likely to be dynamic options for the Black and Yellow, and that was what was needed if they were to break the deadlock.
There was then a chance for the Battery by way of Arthur Bosua, whose shot after a throw-in from the edge of the box would go over the bar.
And then, on 68 came the breakthrough. A switch of play from Kyle Nelson failed to meet its target, and Atlanta went on the counter. A well timed chip pass from Phillip Goodrum found the striker Diop, who controlled and turned his hips before sending a shot across both the tackling Leland Archer and the sprawling Phil Breno.
It was a nice finish from the Atlanta man, but it once again drove home the importance of making your chances count. The Battery had been wasteful in this game, as they had since the restart, and Atlanta took their best opportunity.
Following the goal came the introduction of Zeiko Lewis and Nicque Daley, who replaced Rennico Clarke and Arthur Bosua. This meant that the Battery were going to a back three in pursuit of the equalizer, as Jay Bolt slid across to make the extra center back.
The Battery looked like they would struggle to find the goal they craved, but ramped up the pressure as the going got tough, and on 82′, a Zeiko Lewis shot looked menacing but found its way over the bar.
After the end of normal time, three minutes of stoppage time were given. With stoppages for substitutions, and a mandatory three minute stoppage for a hydration break, the fact that there wasn’t more time added on was quite strange, and this, compacted with Atlanta wasting time, led to an extra minute being added on, which the Battery would use to their advantage.
A Robbie Crawford cross from the left would find the head of a leaping Zeiko Lewis, who headed down into the path of Mauro Cichero, and with just about the last kick of the game, the midfielder leveled the scores.
It was a wild finish, but given the chances that the Battery had created, a fair result.
The win would’ve given Atlanta possession of 2nd place in the Group H standings, but as it were, the Battery remain there with a game in hand ahead of a meeting with rivals Charlotte Independence on Saturday.
As such, the turnaround is quick for the Black and Yellow. The game on Saturday is set for 7PM, and you can stream the match on ESPN+.
TOP IMAGE: MAURO CICHERO TRAINS IN PRESEASON AFTER SIGNING IN THE 2020 OFFSEASON. CHARLESTON BATTERY PHOTO.