Goals from Romario Piggott, Claudio Repetto and Nicque Daley halted the Charleston Battery’s winless run at three games on Saturday night, as the Black and Yellow prevailed over Hartford Athletic by a score of 3-1.
Playing in front of a crowd of just over 3,500, the Battery were pleased to welcome a 100% capacity crowd for the first time since 2019, having played behind closed doors in 2020 due to the COVID 19 restrictions and gradually building up available capacity in the current campaign.
Injuries, international duty, and suspensions meant that the lineup looked a little strange, as Joe Kuzminsky captained the side, with Jarad van Schaik still out with an injury, but fit enough to make the bench. There was a departure from the back-three that the Black and Yellow had deployed at times this season as AJ Paterson would play tonight for his national side Grenada at the Gold Cup, meaning Logan Gdula and Ben Di Rosa lined up as full backs either side of Leland Archer and Patrick Hogan in the center of defense. The midfield seemingly lined up in a three of eventual goalscorer Piggott, Angelo Kelly and Zeiko Lewis, while Repetto, Daley and Stavros Zarokostas would man the front line.
Despite lining up in a more forward thinking fashion, the evening started quickly for Kuzminsky in goal who had to punch away a bouncing ball straight from kick off to prevent an early opening for the visitors.
Despite the early scare, the Battery would enjoy much of the early going in front of the capacity crowd, especially down the right from Zarokostas, and it was through him they got their first real opportunity of the game, when after being booked for simulation in the box just seconds earlier, he would turn provider via a cross that found its way to Romario Piggott, who was celebrating his birthday, and did so in wonderful fashion, using the defender as a decoy to curl a shot into the far corner of the net to give his side the lead.
It was a beautiful goal fit for any occasion, but extra special for the birthday boy as he gave the sold out crowd something to cheer.
Not too long after though, Joe Kuzminsky was forced into his first real save of the evening to deny the away side, who went clean through on goal. The ‘keeper remained big, cutting down the angle before tipping the ball around the post with a foot.
Five minutes before the half, Nicque Daley would go through at the other end, and but for last ditch defending, the Battery could’ve gone into the break two to the good, though his effort was blocked down and eventually cleared.
Both teams had their chances in an open first half, but Piggott’s brilliant curler meant that the home side had the lead going into the break, which they would have felt they deserved.
A succession of Battery corners on the other side of the break looked to cause Hartford problems, but none of them would force Hartford ‘keeper Jefferson Caldwell into a save.
On 58′, Nicque Daley would latch onto a ball from deep and turn his defender, racing toward the box before looking to find a cross, but the effort was cut out by the goalkeeper and the chance went begging.
Zeiko Lewis, playing tonight in a deeper role than usual, would prove pivotal just a minute later, when his through ball to the right found striker Claudio Repetto, who took a couple of touches to set himself on his left foot, before firing with power into the top corner beyond the reach of Jefferson Caldwell, whose fingertips were not enough to deny the striker his second goal in two games.
The Battery then assumed full control, and on 68′, Temi Adesodun, who replaced Romario Piggott shortly after the second goal, would lead a dangerous counter attack and eventually find Nicque Daley, who had his effort saved.
On 76′, the Battery looked to have found the strike to put the game beyond the visitors, when Stavros Zarokostas’ ball toward Angelo Kelly led to another shot from distance, this time all along the ground, but the effort would hit the post and roll along the goal line before being cleared.
Inside the final ten minutes, a Hartford shot blocked down by the Battery defense would lead to a corner that was cleared away before eventually being crossed back in and finding Athletic defender Tulu, who pulled one back with a diving header to beat Kuzminsky.
Now, the Battery had to remain careful. The game was not yet out of reach for the visitors, and they would force all hands to the pump..
However, this again left them open to the counter attack, and Temi Adesodun again would be pivotal as he picked the ball up and took on the Hartford defense, before forcing the goalkeeper into a save.
Whilst that looked to be all for the game, following a Hartford free kick which would be cleared away, the away side looked to keep the ball to fashion one last chance before Nicque Daley would steal the ball from the last man in defense and again motor his way toward goal, this time keeping his composure, waiting for the ‘keeper to commit before slotting the ball under him to put the icing on the cake.
It was a much needed victory for the Battery, having gone three matches without a win, and also importantly, the goals were shared around.
The result will surely hold them in good stead for the visit of the Charlotte Independence on July 23rd to Patriot’s Point, as their Southern rivals have had their number so far this campaign. Kick Off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:30PM and will be available to stream via ESPN+.
TOP IMAGE: ROMARIO PIGGOTT CELEBRATES HIS OPENING GOAL SATURDAY WITH HIS TEAMMATES. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN.