After weather forced the cancellation of Clinton’s last two soccer games on this past Friday and Saturday, the Dark Horses were anxious to get back in action. Back to action is just what they got when they hosted the East Duplin Panthers on Tuesday night. Old rivals, the two teams squared off in a heated battle that saw the Panthers take an early lead only to have the Dark Horses regain their composure and storm back to take the 3-1 win.
The first 10 minutes of the match was dominated by the Panthers as they kept the Dark Horses on their heels and forced the issue early. The panthers got on the scoreboard at 8:31 when they drew Clinton goalie, Gray Sutter, away from the nets and lofted a shot over his head to take the early lead.
Trailing for the first time this season Clinton gathered themselves and began to settle down following the Panther score. The momentum began to shift midway through the first half and when East Duplin committed an unforced error in the 26 minute the Dark Horses seized the opportunity to even the score.
Deep in their end of the field an East Duplin defender kicked a lethargic pass that an alert Jacob Bauman intercepted, and quickly slipped a nice pass into the box for a streaking Ivan Ponce who hammered the first goal home, evening the score at 1-1 at 26:37.
Less than two minutes later, the Dark Horses, like sharks smelling blood, pounced on the reeling Panthers when Reid Taylor’s perfectly placed free kick was one touched by Ivan Ponce inside the box to Andrew Warren who flicked the ball into the goal for a 2-1 Clinton lead at 28:24. Clinton kept the pressure on East Duplin for the remainder of the half but the Panthers were able to turn back a couple of scoring attempts and limp to the half trailing 2-1.
The teams played nearly even in the second half with each goalie facing several shots and successfully turning them back. The only score of the second frame came off a free kick by Dark Horse goal keeper Gray Sutter at the 56:56 mark of the game. Sutter fired a nearly 60-yard kick toward the Panther’s goal that Peter Darden went high to flick into the goal for the final score of the game and a 3-1 Clinton lead.
After the game Clinton head coach Brad Spell applauded his team’s grit in the comeback win.
“East Duplin is a good team, they controlled the game for the first 10 minutes and really put a scare in us. We went down 1-0 early and that is something we had talked about this year as a staff. We wondered how we would react, would we bounce back or would we hang our heads. I was proud of our guys, they may have dragged their heads for a couple of minutes but they got off the mat and answered with two big first half goals to gain control of the match,” Spell said.
He conceded that there is work remaining, adding “we still have some things to clean up, but I am proud of the guys and I will take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.”
The win over East Duplin improves Clinton’s record to 2-0 on the season. The Dark Horses will travel to Wake Med Soccer Park on Friday afternoon to take on Carrboro in a non-conference, neutral site match.