Three goals by three different scorers in the second half propelled the Charleston Battery to victory over North Carolina FC on Wednesday.
Due to the solitary nature of the meeting, the Southern Derby Cup was on the line in the midweek clash, which the Battery looked to retain in what would be their 10th time winning the Supporter-led competition, and their eighth as outright winners.
The match was captain Jarad van Schaik‘s 150th in Black and Yellow as Joe Kuzminsky returned from his loan at Maccabi Haifa so there were milestones in many places as the Battery looked to build on a great comeback win at the weekend.
But it was the home side the started the better of the two, Marios Lomis forcing the returning Kuzminsky into a first, fairly simple save in the ninth minute.
The Battery had a chance of their own just a minute later, a header from a cross from the right sailed just over former Battery player Alex Tambakis’ goal.
But after 17′, North Carolina had the first guilt edged chance, with Ben Speas surging into the penalty area, forcing a save across goal from Kuzminsky, before Danele Proch looked to clean up the rebound, but center back Leland Archer was on hand to clear the ball out for a corner, which came to nothing.
The Battery would have to wait for a chance of their own, but it would eventually come through some quick build up play as Zeiko Lewis won a challenge in the middle of the park, and the Battery were off on the counter. Two quick passes and the ball would eventually find Nicque Daley, who turned his defender inside and out but couldn’t supply the finish as the onrushing Tambakis would stay big and save with his chest before Daley would blaze a rebound over the bar.
And that’s how the first half ended. Both teams had chances, but couldn’t find the target in what was an eventful, but unfruitful first 45.
The first chance of the second half would again fall to Daley, who would again force a save from Tambakis on the end of a break, with a shot on the right forcing a kick-save from the goalkeeper.
Dre Fortune came on in the second half for North Carolina and would force Joe Kuzminsky into action, intercepting a right-sided cross that looked menacing just enough for his defense to clear.
Nicque Daley then led a Battery break a short while later, but couldn’t keep his shot on frame.
However, on 56′ came the breakthrough. Mauro Cichero, who started Saturday’s fight back, passed from midfield to Zeiko Lewis and continued his run, creating an overload and sucking in the full back on the far side, which left Lewis to find Romario Piggott free at the back post.
Piggott took a touch to settle himself and applied the finish from close range to put his side in front for a deserved 1-0 lead.
It had been coming for the Black and Yellow, who were getting more and more joy out of their counter attack as the game went on, and had also created much of the better chances without being able to put them away.
And it could’ve been more for the Battery just after the hour mark, when the goalscorer Piggott played his provider Lewis on the right hand side of goal. The striker would hesitate before playing Cichero into space, but his shot went wide in what would’ve been a spectacular reversal of the first goal.
On 67′ came another chance as Lewis was able to spin in behind on the right wing before he found Cichero in the middle. He then found the overlapping AJ Paterson on the left, who forced a kick save out of Tambakis.
But then, with 20 minutes to go, a Robbie Crawford corner looked wasted, but would eventually find the feet of Nicque Daley, who kept the ball alive with a cheeky back heel as Leland Archer found Crawford, who this time hit a moving ball and sent in for AJ Paterson free at the back post, whose header down for Daley left him with a tap in for 2-0.
It was wonderful buildup from the Battery and Daley’s just desserts having kept his head up after being denied three times, but also Paterson’s second assist in as many games following his hard work for the game winner on Saturday.
The Battery had a comfortable lead to protect for the final 20 minutes, but made sure to put the icing on the cake with just under eight minutes to go.
It was milestone man Jarad van Schaik who started the move, stepping into a loose ball, moving his way up the pitch before sending a tidy through ball up for substitute Stavros Zarokostas whose shot toward the near post took a deflection and beat the ‘keeper for 3-0.
He’ll tell you he deserved the luck, having played well in his first few appearances in a Battery shirt, creating a lot, but without goals to show for it, and a finish to put a derby beyond doubt was a great way to change that.
And that’s how it finished. The Battery retained the Southern Derby Cup, with the win taking them to 14 points with eight games played in Group H, 4 points off group leaders Tampa Bay, though opening up a sizable gap between themselves and third place Atlanta United 2, with two games in hand over their closest challengers.
The Battery next return home to face The Miami FC at Patriot’s Point. Kick Off is set for 7:30, and you can stream the match live on ESPN+.
TOP IMAGE: THE CHARLESTON BATTERY TEAM CELEBRATES RETAINING THE SOUTHERN DERBY CUP. CHARLESTON BATTERY PHOTO