By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
FOXBORO, Mass. – Sharon dominated the ball for long stretches of the second half of Monday night’s non-league matchup with Shepherd Hill at Gillette Stadium but managed only two shots on target and neither shot troubled the Rams keepers.
Frustration mounted on the Sharon sidelines as head coach Bryan Kelly stood with his hands on his head after another attack dwindled away on the sidelines or another free kick failed to make its way into the box.
The Rams may not have had the ball much, but they were dangerous when they did get it with rapid counterattacks and long punts into the Sharon box that created several scoring chances, including one in the final seconds of the first half that produced the winner.
One mistake at the back, one moment of indecision, was all it took for Shepherd Hill to walk away with a 1-0 victory.
“The fact is we make a mistake a game or two mistakes a game,” said Kelly. “We’re solid but the fact of the matter is if we put the ball in the back of the net then we’re not facing these dilemmas.”
He added bluntly, “This team needs to start scoring.”
The first half was a contrast in styles with Sharon looking to keep the ball down and play through the midfield, which is one of the reasons Kelly moved senior Dan Bender into the back four alongside Sam Weidig. The Rams wanted to move it quickly from front to back and looked for long angled balls into striker Mark Wilding.
It only took six minuted for the Rams to show the effectiveness of the strategy when a long pass found Wilding in behind the defense but Andrew Filipkowski got a piece of the shot, which was then cleared off the line.
Chances for either team were few and far between. Sharon forced two saves, but both were comfortable ones on shots from distance.
On the brink of halftime, the game changed. Ben Boudreau sent a long ball over the top and there was hesitation between the back four as well as Filipkowski. Tyler Fagan took advantage to sneak in and then finish it over the top of the keeper for a 1-0 lead with practically the last kick of the half.
“It kind of deflated us,” admitted Kelly. “We knew they were going to just kick and run and that’s where they got all their chances from was kicking it as far as they could and running on to their fast striker. It hurt us.”
“He had one chance, we made a mistake, and they capitalized. That’s the name of the game; that’s soccer.”
The Eagles came out with renewed vigor in the second half and dominated possession and pushed the Shepherd Hill defense back into its defending third of the pitch. It was there that every attack seemed to break down. The ball would cycle to Sonny Somdah down the left touchline or Lucas Allaria on the right and the ball failed to get into the middle where Kelly argued the Eagles are their most potent.
“I think this big, wide field hurt us to be honest with you,” Kelly explained. “We’re a middle of the field kind of team and that’s where our strength is and we kept pushing to the sideline, pushing to the sideline and then we had nothing to do with it.”
“That’s not where we score from – we score in the middle of the field.”
The Eagles kept the ball well with James Dunlea, Matt Lowerre, and Stephen Higgins consistently winning the ball back and getting it back into the attack, but they failed to find openings to take a shot. It was not until the 71st minute off a free kick that Sharon managed to test the keeper in the second half.
“They wanted to keep running straight,” said Kelly. “We talk about making angled runs all the time – looping around your defender, making overlapping runs and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
The best chance of the second half actually fell to the Rams who once again created havoc with a ball over the top of the defense. This time it was Widing that got on the end of it after beating Weidig in the air, but his shot was narrowly over the bar.
Despite pushing to the final whistle, Sharon could not find the chance it needed for an equalizer. The Eagles (4-6, 3-5) will return home to face Taunton on Wednesday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.