SHILLINGTON>> For the majority of the 80 minutes, Governor Mifflin played Wilson evenly. But corner kicks were a different story.
The Bulldogs turned the only two corners they had in the first half into goals, then rode the golden boot of striker Christian Sload for insurance en route to a 3-1 win over Mifflin Wednesday night at Mustang Stadium, in a Berks Section 1 encounter.
Sload had a pair of goals, the first coming off a corner kick by Daniel Gallagher late in the first half that gave Wilson a 2-0 lead; the second was a second-half display of skill that Mifflin’s young back line could not match. Sload timed a run perfectly off a 50-50 ball near midfield and beat Mustangs’ goalie Michael Petricoin to the near post from about 15 yards out with 33:07 left to play for a 3-1 edge.
Gallagher had opened the scoring with a sharp header off a corner with 22:07 left in the first half. Mifflin’s Ryan Lewes also got into the header game by converting a corner from Ben Myers 58 ticks into the second half, a goal that shaved the deficit to 2-1 at the time.
Unbeaten in five matches coming in, Wilson (6-0, 2-0) did not carry play so much as the club executed on its opportunities when presented. In fact, the Mustangs (2-3, 0-1) led in corners, 9-5, an indicator that attacking pressure on the Bulldogs’ back line was sufficient.
But Wilson’s dead-eye accuracy on its corner set pieces was a combination of practice and a tactical height advantage over their hosts. The attempts had the honed look of repetitiveness. Head coach Moss Grande confirmed as much.
“We stress our set pieces,” Grande said. “We feel those are great opportunities to do damage, like (Wednesday) night when you’re playing your best soccer, and you get a set piece and that can be the difference between being down 1-0 or up 2-1 at a certain time. All things that we can control, we work on.”
Grande is reveling in the start his Bulldogs have had, a club that was just 6-10-1 a year ago. They’ve already matched that win total and show no signs of slowing down. He also had praise for Mifflin’s effort.
“It was awesome. Mifflin showed up to play tonight,” he said. “We saw possession soccer out of them tonight and that’s something we haven’t seen in years. A different game than what we’ve been accustomed to.
“We’re playing good team soccer, but I’d like see more patience. We’re rushed at times. I think, coming off a losing record last year, they’re going out there with something to prove.”
Mifflin head coach Jose Garcia has seen corner set pieces burn his club far too often already. The Mustangs are young and lack height. It’s been something that has crushed them in the box so far.
“We’re a very small team and we’re young and we’re getting killed this year in there,” Garcia said. “Eighty-percent of the goals we’ve conceded this season have been off set pieces. As you saw, two corners killed us. We don’t give those two up, it’s a different game.
“We can play with anyone in the county. We were all over them in the second half. We can pressure. We just have to finish our chances.”
Petricoin was pressed into emergency service in net for Mifflin when starting goalie Zach Templin hit the turf hard in the first half and had to depart after suffering back spasms. Just a freshman, Petricoin acquitted himself quite well, with five saves.
“Steps in for such a huge game,” Garcia said of Petricoin. “Couple of key saves. He played a fantastic game. One on one with Sload (his second goal), nothing you can do there.”
Wilson lost senior winger Alex Cluff to an apparent right shoulder injury early in the game. Cluff was taken out on a clean, hard dispossessing tackle and landed hard on his right shoulder in the 13th minute. He did not return.
Wilson – 2 1 — 3
Gov Mifflin – 0 1 — 1
W – Daniel Gallagher (Cole Snyder), 22:06
W – Christian Sload (Gallagher), 8:56
GM – Ryan Lawes (Ben Myers), 39:02
W – Sload (ua), 33:27
Shots on goal
W, 10; GM, 6
W 5; GM, 9
W, 5 (Josh Wertz); GM, 7 (Zach Templin 2, Michael Petricoin 5)