The Otters cemented their place as one of the elite teams in the South Atlantic Division after their 4-1 drubbing of Tobacco Road FC on Tuesday night. The win gave the Otters 14 points through seven games, and moved them into second place, just one point behind the first place NCFC U-23s having played three fewer games than them. The Otters will have a chance to go into first place for the first time ever with a win or potentially a draw on Saturday.
From the opening whistle, the Otters had their foot on the gas and that relentless attack allowed the Otters to gain a significant advantage within the first ten minutes. After Pol Vassart (Lees-McRae) was cut down from behind to earn a penalty, the refs conferred for four minutes before deciding to send off the Tobacco Road defender for denying the goal scoring opportunity.
The four-minute delay seemingly affected Taylor Gray (Reinhardt) as his penalty was saved, denying Gray from extending his goal scoring streak to five games. Up a man and full of confidence, the Otters were able to get their goal just a minute later when a cross by Cole McLagan (Furman) was perfectly dummied by Freddy Tracey (Charleston) and a charging Stuart Hendry (Wingate) blasted it into the back of the net.
For the rest of the half, the Otters poured on the pressure and after several near chances they doubled their lead in the 34th minute when Alex Horveno (Lynn) hit a fantastic, curling cross and Vassart clinically put it away at the far post.
The Otters were able to tack on one more by none other than Taylor Gray late in first half added time when Vassart swung a ball out wide and Gray took advantage of the space and finished from the top of the box for a 3-0 lead going into the half.
It was another great defensive showing for the Otters as the trio of Merveil Bilomba (ETSU), George Stanley (Montreat), and Blake Barribeau (Palm Beach Atlantic) continued to relentlessly break up attacks and move the ball around the back to open things up in the attack. Bilomba especially excelled stepping into passing lanes and picking off passes and immediately charging forward, initiating the counterattack.
To start the second half, Tobacco Road were able to possess the ball more and were pulled one back in the 50th minute off a ball over the top and a good finish past a charging Carlos Rubio (Lenoir-Rhyne).
After the goal, it was all Otters again, with Hendry and McLagan both having good attempts saved in the second half. The Otters pushed it to four in the 70th minute when Tracey picked off a pass and laid it off to Vassart who corralled it, spun, and put it past the keeper. Vassart finished the day with two goals, an assist, and five shots. Vassart’s five points for his goals and assists were the second most ever in a game behind Leonardo da Silva’s hat trick in 2016.
The Otters nearly scored again a minute later when Troy Brady (Canisius) scored off a great through ball from Hendry, but he was ruled offsides. After that the Otters utilized all seven of their substitutions of Brady, James Scasserra (Palm Beach Atlantic), Diego Thielen (Ohio Valley), Oscar Perez (Wingate), Jack Burrows (Palm Beach Atlantic), Drew Fulmer (Palm Beach Atlantic), and Tim Trilk (Western Illinois) to see out the result and spread minutes around with a heavy playing schedule coming up.
The offense as a whole finished with 24 shots, an Otters record for a single game. Their four goals were tied for second-most in a game.
The Otters close out their home schedule at Kermit-Tipton Stadium this Saturday at 7 PM when they take on Virginia Beach United with a chance to go to the top of the table! Tickets can be purchased HERE or on the HappsNow app! Remember, fans 16 years and older get in FREE! #FearTheFur