By Tyler Andreas//Jackson Lions
A breezy and beautiful day at Count Basie Park in Red Bank witnessed a truly back-and-forth encounter between the Jackson Lions and long-time acquaintances FC Monmouth on Saturday, May 27th. The Lions, still reeling from a home defeat to FC Motown last weekend, found themselves in a must-win situation if they wanted to quickly get their NPSL season back on track.
FC Monmouth entered the game riding high on confidence after a convincing win against First State FC away in Delaware. The Monmouth faithful, as always, produced a wonderful atmosphere with their waving flags and enthusiastic drumming.
The early stages of the match saw both teams going back and forth, with the Lions gradually looking to find their rhythm. The first real moment of excitement came when Dave Nigro set up Giuseppe Barone with a tremendous chance about ten minutes in, but the latter sent his effort over the bar. The miss seemed to instill confidence in the Lions as they started looking like they were beginning to dominate proceedings in the following minutes, with Tommy Johnson also spurning an opportunity to break the deadlock with his weaker right foot.
However, in the 14th minute FC Monmouth created their first chance through a cross from Aniello Lubrano and from that point onwards, grew in confidence and began applying equal pressure on the Lions.
In the 32nd minute, Rhys Cotter came agonizingly close to scoring, smashing his half-volley against the crossbar from around 18 yards out. Shortly after, Nigro attempted an acrobatic scissor kick that forced a remarkable save from the Monmouth goalkeeper.
Kevin Politz and Dan Pizzimenti provided a solid defensive foundation for the Lions throughout the first half, showcasing their reliability even though this was both players’ first appearance of the season.
The score remained 0-0 as both teams entered the locker room at halftime, searching for solutions to the lack of goals.
The second half kicked off with a faster pace, as Jules Anderson nearly converted his chance in the 46th minute, only to be denied by a strong right hand from Monmouth goalkeeper Dawid Mroz. Monmouth responded quickly through second-half substitute Jack Longo, who unleashed a powerful right-footed shot that was saved by Lions goalkeeper Calum Erlenborn. Nigro picked up the first caution of the game during this period, receiving a yellow card for two successive fouls in his own attacking third.
For the next ten minutes or so, the game swung back and forth, with both teams creating numerous clear-cut chances. The open nature of the match saw both sides committing numbers forward in search of breaking the deadlock.
In the 65th minute, with the game still deadlocked, Brad Fraley decided to inject more attacking impetus by introducing veteran Jacob “Ruby” Rubinstein. Junior Miranda made way for Rubinstein as Monmouth continued to mount a series of chances between the 65th and 75th minutes. Both goalkeepers displayed excellent performances throughout the match, making crucial saves to keep their teams in the game.
Finally, in the 76th minute, Jules Anderson broke the deadlock, assisted by Barone, who had ventured into the midfield with ample time. The Lions, spurred on by their traveling fans, continued to create chances for the remainder of the game.
Conversely, Monmouth, who had entered the match as underdogs, seemed deflated after conceding. Kenny Hot almost doubled the Lions’ lead in the 90th minute, skillfully evading multiple Monmouth players, but he chose to shoot instead of passing to Rubinstein, who had made a run into the box.
All in all, the Lions staff and players were happy to take home a gritty win to strengthen their position in the Keystone East Conference, made even more sweet by the fact that FC Motown dropped crucial points to Atlantic City FC, who Jackson welcomes to Donovan Catholic next Saturday, June 3rd.
Photos Provided by Jackson Lions FC