HORSHAM >> For as much as the Hatboro-Horsham boys soccer team had been looking forward to its match on Monday, it wasn’t playing like it early.
The Hatters had their rematch with Springfield-Montco circled since the first week of the season, but they were sluggish at the start, with the forwards stagnant and the midfield having nowhere to go. Eventually, they found their space and finally, things began to open up.
Once they got going, the Hatters started the second half of their conference schedule with a 4-0 win over the visiting Spartans.
“I was having trouble, I couldn’t really find options,” Hatters midfielder Colin Bateman said. “Then, Danny (Harmon) and Hatzy (Nick Hatzenbeller) started finding diagonal balls and that’s when we started to get through and break them down. They have a solid back line, they got a lot better from last year and we had to learn how to break them down.”
Springfield had stunned the Hatters 4-1 back in the first full week of the season, a loss that not only served to wake up the Hatters, but also to cause them to start looking forward to the replay. The fortunes of both teams have changed since that early September win as well.
Hatboro-Horsham won eight of its next nine games including impressive wins over Archbishop Wood and Central Bucks West and now 9-2-1 overall and 6-2 in the Suburban One League American Conference, find themselves in the thick of a conference race and also the possibility of a first-round playoff bye. The Spartans were playing well until starting goalkeeper Julian Brown suffered a severe concussion against Upper Dublin and the team has struggled in his absence.
Monday, the Spartans didn’t win, but they also didn’t back down and played a good match despite the final score.
“I’m not disappointed, we lost by the same score last week to Wissahickon and I was disappointed by our play, but today we lost and I was not disappointed,” Springfield coach Dan Meder said. “They’re a good team, they moved the ball really well, executed and capitalized on their opportunities this time.”
Bateman, one of the Hatters’ senior co-captains, spearheaded a strong effort by the team’s central midfield. For the first 10-plus minutes of play, the ball was bogged down in the middle of the field, with the Hatters unable to find their slow-to-get-going forwards and the Spartans being thwarted by the Hatters.
Once the forwards realized they weren’t doing their share and got moving, the Spartans had to start spreading out to account for them.
“We were very stagnant and our coaches were getting on us,” Harmon said. “We started generating movement and when we did that, it opened up space for our center mids to get loose. Once they did, they could start playing balls more to the runners.”
With some room, center midfielder JD Mallinger put the Hatters on the board. After center back Josh Haggerty got him the ball, Mallinger took a few touches into space then uncorked a shot from deep that beat Spartans keeper Danny Neifert in the 13th minute.
Neifert, a junior field player who tried to help his team out in the goal, made three saves.
“JD took the space and had a nice shot,” Harmon said. “It gave us something to build our momentum.”
Three minutes later, the Hatters doubled it up when Haggerty again supplied the set-up. The defender found Harmon on the left wing and the senior co-captain did the rest, whipping a cross into the box where it found a running Hatzenbeller for the knock-in.
Harmon was happy to get two quick goals because it helped out the rest of his teammates. Bateman added the entire unit plays better with a lead, whether its keeper Zach Kim getting more vocal, the defenders being aggressive or the mids keeping the ball coming to the guys up top.
“We started realizing we could play to feet again,” Bateman said. “(Springfield) plays good soccer and it’s fun when both teams want to play good soccer. That’s a good team and they gave us a battle.”
Down 2-0 at the half, Springfield wasn’t ready to fold and put the Hatters on their heels to start the second half. Hatboro-Horsham was trying to keep itself afloat for the first seven minutes after the break until Harmon restored order.
The winger took the ball off a Spartan midfielder, then held off the pursuing player, split another pair of defenders and with two more guys coming in, ripped the ball to the far post on a brilliant hit to make it 3-0.
“We re-gained control, because I thought we had lost it a little bit and were back on our heels,” Harmon said. “We flipped the switch again and found our style again. I don’t remember it that much.”
While Harmon wasn’t going to hype up his own accomplishment, Bateman was happy to.
“We did start out shaky in the second half,” Bateman said. “We he got into that tackle and he went ‘Beast Mode,’ you can’t stop him. He ripped that shot top left and it got everyone’s energy back up and we knew it was our game.”
One thing Bateman said has changed since the first Springfield game is the team’s lineup. The Hatters roll out a different 11 seemingly every game because the reserves are so determined to be a part of it that they fight their way into the lineup during practice.
Monday, it was Andrew Hurrell who made a big impact off the bench. The sophomore provided constant energy, winning corner kicks, throw-ins, putting shots on frame and finally cashing in with a goal late in the match.
Josh Luke, another super-sub, played Hurrell in off the right wing and the forward finished by slipping the ball through the keeper’s legs.
“I always tell the guys before the go into the game that they need to raise the energy level and bring something to the game for us and I thought Andrew did a great job of that today,” Hatters coach Kyle McGrath said. “It was good to see those guys come in and have a positive impact.”
HATBORO-HORSHAM 2 2 – 4
SPRINGFIELD TWP 0 0 – 0
Goals: HH – JD Mallinger, Nick Hatzenbeller (Danny Harmon), Harmon, Andrew Hurrell (Josh Luke)