By Tyler Andreas/Jackson Lions FC
On Saturday, June 3rd, the Jackson Lions hosted Atlantic City FC at Donovan Catholic in their fourth game of this NPSL season. Both teams have had encouraging starts to their campaigns, and this match represented an opportunity for either side to go top of the Keystone East table on points by the end of the night. FC Motown was set to play their game in hand the following day where a win would leave them still in control in first position.
Last season’s edition of this fixture saw the Lions travel to Rowan University for a back-and-forth match that saw Atlantic City edging out a nervy 3-2 victory. The Lions players and coaching staff were eager to redeem this loss from last year going into the game.
Assistant Coach Connor Hansen spoke about the team’s need for goals while still missing the likes of Walter Calderon and Daniel Russo.
“It’s about finding the chemistry right now,” Hansen said. “With Dave, and Miggy and Jules in the team, we have ways to score. And we gave up a lot of set pieces against Motown, we can’t do that tonight.”
This Jersey Shore matchup took place on an unseasonably cold and windy night, but the Lions fans still arrived in strong numbers, bundled up in their scarves and ready to support their local squad.
Atlantic City started the match pushing very high up the pitch, clearly trying to apply pressure to the Lions back line of Kevin Politz, Brandon Golden, Kevin Kappock, and Joey Zalinsky.
Jackson was able to win multiple corners and free kicks in the first 15 to 20 minutes and even carved out some dangerous chances from those opportunities as Kenny Hot whipped his deliveries into some good areas, but the forward line couldn’t put anything away.
Throughout this chippy period of the match, Hot and Giuseppe Barone found a thread to pull in Atlantic City’s narrow defensive structure and went to work spraying diagonal balls out to Miguel Diaz and Jared Brown. In the 32nd minute it resulted in Diaz finding himself nearly one on one with the keeper if not for the outstretched leg of James Cahill who stuffed the shot.
Earlier on, in the 17th minute, Atlantic City forward Colin Beasley was carted off of the field for what appeared to be an ankle injury. His replacement Thomas Mollis would go on to score in the 42nd minute with a blistering effort from just beyond the penalty area that left Calum Erlenborn helpless as it flew into the top corner. It was a shame for the Jackson shotstopper, who in all aspects had a flawless half, as the teams walked in for halftime with the score 1-0.
At the restart, Jackson began to look like they were going to get a little more control over the midfield and in the half spaces of AC’s defensive third, with Dave Nigro, Julian Anderson, and Jared Brown linking up well with Barone and Hot. But nothing of significance came of it by the time 20 minutes had passed in the second half.
AC looked dangerous on the counter during this period as well. Their midfield was using the same sweeping balls that were implemented by Barone and Hot in the first half to try to exploit a Jackson line that was positioned generally higher up the pitch than they were in the first half.
By the 80th minute, some of the chippiness had died out of the game following two yellow cards for Atlantic City in quick succession. Some new introductions into the match included Tommy Johnson and Zach Golden for the Lions, and Ryan Clearly, Jason Barragan, and Kevin Kiernan for Atlantic City.
The final ten minutes saw the Lions create a couple half chances through the likes of Diaz and Johnson. Atlantic City seemed unable to relieve the pressure being applied by Jackson with their late push, but defended well enough to make sure that their attack didn’t conjure up anything of note in the dying minutes of the game.
The match finished 1-0 in favor of Atlantic City FC who look to be entering a great run of form. The Lions return to action at home next Saturday, June 10th against First State FC.
Photo Credit: Tyler Andreas/Jackson Lions FC