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By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
SHARON, Mass. – As Shalin Patel chased the ball over the top in the 38th minute, he had position on Oliver Ames forward Chris Romero and it seemed as though the chance was gone for the Tigers.
Then the Sharon right back went to ground, seemingly after having his heel clipped. But the whistle never blew and Romero never hesitated on his path to the ball before coolly finishing it under the bar.
The Eagles bench exploded, arguing that it was a clear foul on the defender. The referees came together for a quick conversation at midfield but there was no changing the call and the goal stood.
It turned out to be enough for the Tigers for a 1-0 road victory. OA’s record improved to 6-0 and the Tigers have allowed only one goal all season, but in the team talk after the final whistle OA coach John Barata let his team know that there was plenty of room for improvement.
“It wasn’t our best game, by any means, but at least we were able to get a result,” he explained. “We’ve got a lot to build on but we’re just focused on the present.”
Sharon coach Bryan Kelly was pleased with his team’s performance, if not what turned out to be the decisive moment. He said, “They had the one chance and that’s all they needed. We played really well and I thought we controlled the tempo in both halves.”
Sharon started the game with most of the possession on its familiar grass field. The Tigers were backing off to protect the box and then countered quickly and created a number of good chances in the opening 40 minutes, while the Eagles did not put a shot on target in the first half.
The first chance fell to Romero, who was left unmarked in the box and was picked out with a cross by Thomas McCormick but headed wide. McCormick had the next chance off a pass by Keegan Nutt but his shot sailed over the bar.
Vella had another chance int he 21st minute. His shot from the edge of the box was spilled by Filipkowski but the Sharon keeper was quick to block the rebound chance by Tylor Jones. Three minutes later, he was off his line quickly again to make a sliding save on Cam Vella.
“Andrew is just solid,” said Kelly, while also praising his back four, including three-year starter Samuel Weldig. “My defense in front of him is really strong, but Andrew has been a rock back there.”
In the 38th minute, the game changed with the Tigers taking the lead. Barata said, “Yes, we had plenty of chances. We didn’t give up a lot of chances but in soccer it’s the one who finishes that wins and we got one…finally.”
The halftime team talk was crucial for the Eagles and seemed to work as Sharon came out of the break with renewed energy. Midfielders Dan Bender, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and James Dunlea got the ball into the channels quicker to give Sonny Somdah the chance to run at the OA defense.
Three minutes into the second half, Somdah created Sharon’s first real scoring chance when he raced to the byline and cut it back to Lucas Allaria, but his shot from six yards went wide.
“He’s a player to watch as we come down the end of the season,” said Kelly. “He hurt his ankle early this season but he’s starting to create chances.”
OA managed a pair of chances to double its lead on the counter. Romero quickly played the ball forward to Nutt who found Matt Campbell, but his shot flew over the bar. Romero then took advantage of a misplayed back pass to create space for his left foot but again the shot was narrowly off frame.
In the 68th minute, Sharon had its best chance of the game. Somdah was again the player that the opportunity fell to when he ran onto a through ball but OA keeper Jack Carroll came off his line to smother the chance.
“That’s the fun thing about a goalkeeper,” said Barata. “You can have nothing for 60 minutes but when you’re called upon that one moment are you going to make the save? And he made the save.”
Kelly remarked, “When we pass it we can spin people around. I have no complaints about the way we played. But it’s all about putting the ball in the net and that was shown again today.”
Two minutes after Carroll’s save, Filipkowski came up with another huge stop when he was down low to his left to stop a shot from Nutt with 10 minutes remaining.
It was a sixth straight win for the Tigers to start the season, but Barata admitted that his team had to grind out Thursday’s result.
He said, “It’s always wonderful to see these teams go at it and I always tell people that this is good tournament prep. The Hock may not win all the championships but we are ready to go come tournament time because of games like this.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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