By 3S Media
The Southern States SC Stars’ exciting start to their inaugural season, opening with a four-game winning run, has stumbled on the rock which is Pensacola FC’s unyielding defense. For the second time in a week the Stars have lost without scoring a goal.
The Florida team sent the Stars to their first defeat of the season last Saturday winning 1-0 in Pensacola. On Thursday they traveled to Oak Grove, Mississippi and bettered that result winning 2-0 and ending the Stars’ 100% home record at their Oakes facility.
The second game had an almost identical start as the previous game with the Stars possessing the ball and having the territorial advantage with the visitors holding strong and limiting chances.
Connor Brazil and Tom Shepherd had chances for the Stars before the game was impacted by a 34th minute red card for Stars forward Andre Deas. With the Stars needing to reshuffle and come to terms with the 10-man scenario, the worst happened. Just three minutes later Pensacola opened the scoring.
From a right-wing corner there appeared some holding and bumping inside the six-yard area, ending with Stars goalkeeper Hector Grajeda on the ground and the ball gently rolling into the back of the Stars net. Amongst the bodies it was impossible to see who had the final touch, but Jordi Ramon claimed it and the visitors were ahead before the break.
In the second half the reorganized Stars set about trying to find the equalizing goal. There was always the fear that by pushing forward too often and too much they would leave themselves open to the counterattack against their reduced numbers.
Despite this, Carl Reynolds’ team pushed forward and kept probing, looking for the goal they needed. Pensacola sat solid in defense and midfield not giving their opponents space to create.
Then on the hour mark it was devastation for the Stars. Jabari Hylton picked up the ball inside the left of the Stars penalty area and was surrounded by four Stars players. There appeared to be no danger until he somehow wriggled free and struck a right-footed shot across the face of the goal into the far corner of the net, away from Grajeda in the Stars goal.
It was an uphill struggle for the Stars from that moment on. Pensacola used all their experience and know-how to slow the game down and break up the play, frustrating the Stars even more. There were minimal opportunities at either end as the Pensacola team took a stranglehold on the game without ever having to push forward looking for a third goal. They made their added number count on the defensive side of the ball.
The Stars fought bravely to the end, but the 10-men could not find a way through and Pensacola returned home with all three points and something of a hex on the Stars.
Pensacola FC coach David Kemp was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We respect quality, we respect a competitive team, we think Southern States are the top team in our conference and we knew coming in to play them we had to bring our best game tonight and we had the best parts of the game,” Kemp said. “We were very disciplined, and very, very, organized from the first whistle to the last. We took a lot from Southern States, they really pushed us to the limit, we’re thankful we have a victory here tonight.”
A disappointed Carl Reynolds for Southern States SC was upbeat despite the loss.
“We started the game positively,” Reynolds said. “We did really, really well. We created a lot of chances and then obviously the referee’s decision has changed the game. We got in at halftime, we settled and to be honest with ten men in the second half we had most of the ball we just weren’t able to create any type of substantial chances. At the end of the day, credit where credit is due, they score two goals and don’t concede, so they win the game. The great thing about football is we get to go again, we have three games next week and I just said to the guys, visualize three wins and by this time next Saturday we can feel really, really good about ourselves again and put our season back on track.”
Photo Credit: 3S Media