Bill Walleekendeh scored a hat-trick to keep the Stars play-off hopes alive – but they had to survive a late scare once again from Hershey FC.
After a disappointing 4-2 loss away to Buxmont Torch midweek, the Stars knew they needed to win against the Panthers to stand any chance of qualifying for the Keystone Conference playoffs.
The Stars started slowly and they were made to pay as early as the third minute when a mistake from the backline allowed Shaq Hudson to put the Panthers ahead.
That early goal woke up the Stars as they began to press for an equalizer. Wing back Jose Mendez created a handful of chances from the left wing only to see his efforts denied by Hershey’s goal keeper.
However, the breakthrough for the Stars finally came in the 26th minute when an inviting cross from Vlandy Slueue was meet at the far corner by Bill Walleekendeh who headed past the goalie to tie the score at 1-1 before the break.
The second half began with a bang for the Stars as they scored twice in the space of two minutes.
It all started in the 46th minute with Walleekendeh scoring his second goal of the evening off another beautiful pass from Slueue to put the Stars ahead 2-1. Two minutes later, the provider became the finisher as Slueue pounced onto a rebound from Walleekendeh’s shot to put the Stars ahead 3-1.
The score will remain like that until the 80th minute and after few changes, the Panthers began to exert some pressure. With their recent reputation of giving away late leads as was the case mid-week at BuxMont Torch, it was nervous time for the Stars.
Hershey kept on pressing and got a goal from Joel Teston in the 82nd minute to make the score 3-2.
With minutes to go, Hershey threw all their players up front in search of an equalizer but they were punished as the Stars gained back their two-goal lead in the 90th minute after a through pass from Yaya Fane saw Slueue fouled in the box for a penalty. Walleekendeh calmly converted to complete his hat-trick and at the same time gave the Stars a 4-2 lead. This was Walleekendeh’s seventh goal in eight matches in the NPSL in just his first season.
There was still time for late drama as the Panthers pulled one back in injury time from Darvin Ebanks, but the Stars breathed a sigh of relief when the referee blew the final whistle to give them all three points and keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Stars last two regular season matches are at home against Electric City Shock SC (Sunday, July 2nd at 6:00 pm) and New Jersey Copa FC (Saturday, July 8th at 7:00 pm).