TOWAMENCIN >> Coming up empty on scoring chance after scoring chance through a combination of misses, hitting the post and saves from William Tennent keeper Brendan Hanratty was a bit deflating for the North Penn boys soccer team. But getting so close also kept the Knights motivated.
“It’s frustrating because we could really use the goals, but on the other hand we definitely know we can score,” NP senior Nate Baxter said. “And we have the players up top that can get it done. We know it’s coming.”
Baxter was that player Tuesday afternoon, breaking a scoreless tie in the Suburban One League Continental Conference matchup at in the second half as host North Penn edged the Panthers 1-0.
“We definitely needed the three points, we needed the win in our league,” Baxter said. “We started off the year a little bit shaky against (Central Bucks) East but we’re getting our foothold back and we’re going to go only up from here.”
The Knights (3-1-0, 2-1-0 conference) should of had a lead at halftime, but were twice denied by the right post — the first on an indirect free kick in the Tennent 18-yard box, the second on Luke McMahon’s shot with an open goal. McMahon had another quality chance to collect the opening tally, but his shot in front off a header was stopped by Hanratty.
“I don’t think in the midfield and attack it wasn’t our best game but we still managed to win. And that’s what we’re after,” North Penn coach Paul Duddy said. “That just reminded me of a typical Continental league game. But we’re fine with it, glad to see Nate score.”
Baxter finally put the Knights up with 23:21 left in regulation, as a ball played by Noah Kwortnik took a fortuitous bounce for Baxter, who raced in and put a shot up high before outcoming Hanratty could make a sliding save.
“I think it was a ball from the midfield out wide but it deflected off a defender and it was just a lucky bounce and I got in and put it away,” Baxter said.
William Tennent (1-2-0, 0-2-0), without Billy Hanratty in the lineup, had trouble creating a consistent pressure on the NP defense and dropped it second straight game after opening the season with a win over Archbishop Wood.
“I thought our defense and our goalie in particular played very, very well. Up top now we’re a little shorthanded,” Tennent coach Ryan Todt said. “We’re missing one of our premier forwards in Billy Hanratty, so I think once we get him back, we’ll get things back to normal but in the meantime I think some of our younger guys just have to step up. A lot of them are being given an opportunity and we’re waiting for somebody to assert themselves.”
The Panthers best chance for a goal came after halftime on the second of three straight corner kicks with the contest still locked at 0-0. The corner was initially cleared, but the ball was sent back by North Penn into the box and a Tennent header was knocked over the crossbar by NP keeper Bobby Dean.
“Bobby reacted great, just got his hand up. It was a great save,” Duddy said.
After Baxter’s strike made it 1-0, William Tennent had a free kick chance from distance with less the 15 minutes to go, but the shot was low and into the NP wall.
“I think that some of these guys basically are finding their niche up top and we have a couple position changes right now and I think that we’re going to start clicking,” Todt said. “I can see we’re one pass away from clicking, one goal away and once you start scoring I think it’s contagious, but we just got to get that first one. We’ve kind of been snake-bitten and gun shy for the first couple games.”
Tuesday’s victory was the second straight for North Penn. All three of the Knights’ victory so far in 2016 coming by shutout, the lone blemish on their record being a 1-0 defeat to last year’s PIAA Class AAA champ Central Bucks East Sept. 7.
“We’re definitely still improving,” Baxter said. “But we’re a pretty good team, we still have a lot to work on.”
William Tennent, in its first season in the SOL Continental, stays in conference play for its next game as the Panthers visit Central Bucks South 3:30 p.m. Thursday. North Penn next plays Saturday in a non-league contest at Wilson-West Lawn at 11 a.m.
The Knights’ first good opportunity for a goal Tuesday came when the Panthers were called for dangerous play in their own 18-yard area, giving NP an direct kick. But Brendan Hanratty came out and got a foot on Mike Kohler’s low shot with the ball knocking off the right post to keep the match scoreless.
The right post again came into play when Brendan Hanratty stopped another Kohler shot. The rebound went to McMahon with an open net, but a touch by a WT defender had his try hitting of the post, the ball rolling tantalizingly in front of the goal line before Hanratty grabbed it.