This week saw the return of Nick Sindt from a nagging ankle injury, though the persistent injuries and a couple of late scratches saw the manager’s plan to use him sparingly go straight out the window. The final game of their 6-game road-trip saw the SOBs forced into a measured, energy-saving effort as the injuries and late scratches saw only 10.5 fit players suit up for the Old Boys.
Not surprisingly the home side started brighter; their two strikers using their speed and strength to put the half-fit Sindt and his backline mates under duress right away.
The Old Boys had the better possession numbers but the River Otters looked the more threatening in the opening 15 minutes; creating an couple opportunities down the just recently half-fit Sindt’s side only for Larson to come up huge in net. Around the quarter hour mark, that pressure finally paid off; a huge punt by the goalkeeper took an erratic bounce over the head of sweeper Derric Johnson and right back Sindt failed to get over in time to stop the striker’s cut-back and shot which left SOB keeper Bryan Larson with absolutely no chance.
Conceding seemed to settle and galvanize the Blues who began to find more joy in the offensive third though the tame efforts were easily saved or wide of the target. After about 10 minutes of sustained pressure the Old Boys found their equalizer through an Own Goal created by Dave Tesch.
Manager Sindt had this to say about the goal: “It was a methodical and measured counter-attack built by Hauter and Tesch on the right side. Dave got to the corner, beat his man, then sent in a low cross which bounced awkwardly off the defender’s scrotum. The opposition might have felt hard done by, but it was no more than we deserved and simply the result of getting the ball into the box and putting their defenders under pressure.”
When the half-time whistle blew the Old Boys were relieved to be able to get some water but it definitely killed all of the momentum they had been building towards the end of the 45. The River Otters freshness was key to the start of the second half allowing them to pressure the SOB backline with a renewed vigor and sense of purpose. The Otters #7 again put them in front on a long ball out of the back around the 55th minute, and again going behind seemed to light the proverbial fire under the SOBs.
Though long past exhausted, the Blues midfield and forwards found a determination to keep pressing and make their possession count.
The Blues began working down the left-hand side behind the tireless Graham Campbell and Matt Gorrell, forcing the Otters to overload defensively and then opening up the right side of the field. Constantly switching the point-of-attack kept the hosts baffled and created space for Clayton, Tesch, and Farrell to get into resulting in two shots missing by a combined three inches and one hit crossbar. Tesch eventually found the back of the net around the 65th minute to level matters. Being pushed to the brink of a draw by a team of only 10.5 players sparked some life into the Otters who were able to finally find some possession.
The Old Boys were finally put to the sword for their exhaustion when a poor clearance header found the side volley of an Otter forward to be exquisitely struck into the side netting; though tired and gifting the chance to the opposition it was hard to deny the quality of the strike.
Again down a goal, the Old Boys managed to fight through severe cramping to put the Otters on notice that the final twenty or so minutes would not be a formality.
Though the Otters carved out a few half chances in the final quarter of the match it was truly dominated by the Old Boys who turned possession into chances and two extremely dangerous free kicks in the last 10 minutes, both missing by mere inches. The ref’s final whistle brought an end to the punishment the Blues were exerting on their legs and their opponents.
In the end most of the Old Boys felt the game was within their reach even with no subs available, and are eagerly awaiting the return fixture with a closer to full strength side.
Vice-Captain Derric Johnson remarked after the game: “It was a long painful slog in the heat, but thankfully the River Otters are a decent group of guys and didn’t resort to cheap and nasty fouls, diving, and teenage-girl esque bitching like some other teams in this league. This is how MRSL games should be.”
Final Score – River Otters 3 – 2 Stegman’s Old Boys FC
25’ – G: OG A: Tesch
65’ – G: Tesch A: Shanafelt
SOB Man of the Match – Dave Tesch F