HORSHAM >> Hatboro-Horsham was on its heels.
For the first 20 or so minutes of their nonleague match with Archbishop Wood on Saturday night, the Hatters were spending a lot of time chasing down the Vikings on counters and found themselves behind. Instead of panicking, the Hatters regrouped, got tough in the middle of the pitch and watched Nick Hatzenbeller score a great goal.
Hatzenbeller scored another and the midfield held its ground as the Hatters held on for a 2-1 win, handing Wood its first loss of the season in an entertaining and well-played match.
“We were excited to play Wood, we knew they were PCL contenders, they’re very good in that league and they were undefeated,” Hatzenbeller said. “We knew this was a big match and we needed to win it.”
Center mids usually cover more ground than any other position over the course of 80 minutes and often, their work goes unnoticed. The Hatters have a solid trio making up the center of their formation in senior Colin Bateman, junior Ryan Cole and sophomore JD Mallinder.
Early on, the Hatters kept winning corners, but they got too aggressive pressing up and it left them vulnerable to counters, which Wood was all too happy to exploit.
“Colin Bateman, our defensive mid, was getting drawn out because he wanted to get offensive and it created a big gap between him and our back line,” Hatters coach Kyle McGrath said. “They were able to go at us. I told Colin to drop in a little bit, take away that space and once we did that, they seemed to get a little frustrated.”
Cody Taylor was the one doing most of the countering and was the one who put Wood on the board with 25:28 left in the first half. Midfielder Bob Hennessey dis-possessed a Hatter midfielder right at midfield and played a perfectly weighted through ball up to Taylor.
The junior striker, who is off to a strong start, carried it the rest of the way and ripped a volley from about 25 yards out that sailed into the net.
“I he was going to play it through, so I was able to slip around a defender and he slipped it through,” Taylor said. “I knew first touch was good, the first touch was out ahead of me and I was looking to the far post. I kind of mis-hit it a little bit but it still went in.”
Taylor noted the impact of Hatboro-Horsham’s center mids as the match wore on, saying they slowed the Vikings’ pace of play and made Wood play too much through the middle. The Vikings have good speed on the flanks, but they weren’t able to use it enough and Taylor was increasingly isolated up top.
The striker felt like his team got limited to one or two passes and if they had been able to string together three or four and combine more, the Vikings would have generated more chances. Wood was frustrated after the final whistle, but with three critical matches next week – home vs La Salle, at Lansdale Catholic and at North Penn – the loss was a wake-up call.
“It motivated us, we have La Salle on Tuesday and that’s a big game,” Taylor said. “It motivated us more to come out strong. We can work on possessing the ball, speed of play, getting out wide and hustle all around. We had a lot of chemistry coming into the season, so we can do it.”
Hatzenbeller leveled the score with 22:57 left in the opening half off a fantastic service. Forward Danny Harmon played a tantalizing cross off the left wing that found Hatzenbeller at the far post and the senior was able to flick it in off the post.
“He’s been playing a lot of good balls to me this season and I think it’s been working really well between us,” Hatzenbeller. “Us, plus Brian (Hurrell) and the entire midfield, we’ve been synthesizing really well.”
The goal tilted favor back to the home side and with the midfield getting more organized, the Hatters seized the momentum shift. Wood didn’t relent and matching up with such a high-energy team only served to help Hatboro-Horsham.
Hatzenbeller said the Vikings were just like the Wissahickon, Upper Dublin and Plymouth Whitemarsh teams they face in the SOL American, so it was a good test.
“They were really good in the middle of the field so we had to all work extra-hard, they probably had the best midfield we’ve played so far,” Cole said. “They were the best 50/50-ball team we’ve seen so far so we had to keep working and trying to win those balls. This is a huge win for us.”
Cole had a role in the winning goal when he picked out Hatzenbeller at the top of the box, with the senior doing the rest. Hatzenbeller powered his way through a tackle and got enough space to put away a low and well-hit shot to the near post.
“I remember the ball coming to me and I saw a little bit of open space so I just tried to get through,” Hatzenbeller said. “Even though the ball got slipped up a little bit on one of the defenders, I just kept working through it and eventually I found myself on goal, took a shot and it happened to go in.”
The win capped a 3-0 week for the Hatters
“We’re really working well right now and clicking with our passes,” Cole said. “We know each other well, we bond well, we know each other’s strengths and just try to play to that.”
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 1 0 – 1
HATBORO-HORSHAM 2 0 – 2
Goals: AW – Cody Taylor; HH – Nick Hatzenbeller (Danny Harmon), Hatzenbeller (Ryan Cole)