The Otters were able to finish off a four-game road stretch with a vital 3-1 win on the road at Lionsbridge FC Wednesday night. In front of a USL League Two season record crowd of over 3,200 people, the Otters were able to shock the hosts with two goals in the last ten minutes of the game to vault themselves back into the playoff hunt after three straight road losses. The win also gave the Otters 18 points on the season, topping last year’s best-ever mark of 17 points.
After two late 2-1 losses to the NC Fusion U-23s and NCFC U-23s last week, and a 2-0 loss to Virginia Beach on Monday, the Otters were in need of a win in a big way to keep their hopes of a playoff berth alive in the very tight South Atlantic Division.
From the opening whistle, both teams were able to generate offense all night, making for non-stop action. The Otters seemed to break the deadlock early, when Taylor Gray (Reinhardt) held off a defender in the box and scored but it was called back for a foul.
The back and forth continued and in the 19th minute James Scasserra (Palm Beach Atlantic) picked off a pass and played Troy Brady (Canisius) out wide. The ensuing cross from Brady whipped across the box and Taylor Gray was there on the back post to tap it in for the 1-0 lead.
Lionsbridge stepped up their offensive pressure from there, but captain George Stanley (Montreat), Merveil Bilomba (ETSU), Diego Thielen (Ohio Valley), and Scasserra worked to limit the chances for the opponents.
In the midfield, Matheus Tonon (Palm Beach Atlantic) and Cole McLagan (Furman) were able to stop the attacks but also counter forward quickly to create chances. McLagan used his high work rate to generate several shots from inside the box.
Brady, Gray, Pol Vassart (Lees-McRae), and Alex Horveno (Lynn) kept the Otters dangerous and generated 13 shots on the night.
The Otters took their 1-0 lead into the half, but Lionsbridge nearly equalized in the 46th minute when a ball fell to one of their unmarked forwards near the penalty spot and his shot was just pushed out by Carlos Rubio (Lenoir-Rhyne). From that point on, Rubio commanded the box and was able to knock away most attempts.
Things got interesting in the 70th minute, when Bilomba was called for a foul in the box, giving Lionsbridge a penalty kick to potentially level things. Rubio guessed the correct side, but the ball was just out of his reach and the game moved to 1-1 with 20 minutes to go.
In the 84th minute, the Otters earned a PK of their own when a rip by McLagan went off a Lionsbridge defender’s arm. Substitute Marvin van der Made (University of the Cumberlands) stepped up to the spot and got the Lionsbridge keeper guessing and blasted it into the top right of the goal.
Lionsbridge poured numbers forward trying to equalize and a long ball by Tonon skipped off a defender and Luke Howson (ETSU) raced into the box and a short cross by him was volleyed into the back of the net by Stuart Hendry (Wingate) to seal the 3-1 win.
The win moved the Otters into third place, trailing the NC Fusion U-23s and NCFC U-23s by two and three points, respectively. The Otters have two games next week to close out the regular season when they play a home and away with Tobacco Road FC on Tuesday and Saturday. The game on Tuesday will be played in Boone, North Carolina at the Ted Mackorell Soccer Complex at 5:30 PM. Follow us on social media as we keep close tabs on the playoff race! #FearTheFur