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Abington puts the pressure on Upper Dublin

Abington's Sean Touey controls the ball as Upper Dublin’s Oliver Berman defends during their game on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)
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ABINGTON >> Pressure can be a weapon.

The Abington boys soccer team feels its defense and its offense starts with its pressure up top. With forwards that want to pursue the ball as soon as it hits a defenders’ foot, sometimes it leads to quick opportunities.

That’s exactly what the Ghosts did on their first goal Thursday night and kept it rolling as they topped Upper Dublin 4-0 at Schwarzman Stadium.

“We got everything back together, we connected as a unit and played on the same page,” Abington’s Liam Friel said. “We were open, we looked for each other, picked our heads up, connected passed and looked for the right guys. It just worked out.”

Upper Dublin’s Christopher Kenney chases down a loose ball near Abington’s Liam Campbell during their game on Thursday, Oct 4, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Friel scored the last goal and assisted the first as four different Abington players put a ball in the back of the net. Sean Touey also tallied a goal and assist for the Ghosts, who put two goals away on either side of halftime.

While the Ghosts controlled most of the game, even racking up three corner kicks in the first four minutes, Upper Dublin nearly scored the game’s first marker. A ball pinging around the box found itself heading into the net only for a timely intervention by Ghosts defender Reece Gibbs.

Gibbs, who has been pressed into center back duty due to an injury, headed the ball off the line to keep the score deadlocked.

“Reece can play anywhere,” Abington coach Randy Garber said. “He’s strong, athletic and good in the air. He’s just a tough kid to get by and him filling in at the back, we don’t lose too much.”

The juniors’ timely intervention came with about 21 minutes left in the first half, and the Ghosts capitalized on the change in momentum a few moments later.

Touey pressured the ball at the back, winning it off a defender. UD keeper Alex Goldenberg made a terrific slide tackle to take it off Touey, but Bryce Lexow was able to get it on the right flank and cross it back in.

Friel was there for a shot, which seemed on its way in but got there for sure when Nevin Baer flew in to tap it home.

“We all know each other well, we play as a unit and see ourselves as a total team,” Friel said. “As long as it goes in the back of the net, it doesn’t matter.”

Touey made it 2-0 with 13:29 left in the first half when he drove a direct free kick from about 20 yards out through the wall and into the net.

“The key is with most of the teams we play, we play a high pressured defense and no one likes to play when they’re pressured,” Garber said. “That allows us to win balls that other players panic on. We have quite a few players capable of scoring goals.”

Upper Dublin’s Ryan Melick runs with the ball near Abington’s Gavin O’Neil during their game on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Upper Dublin worked hard but the Cardinals didn’t have much success connecting offensively. To combat the Ghosts’ pressure, the Cardinals wanted to get things moving fast, but they didn’t turn it into sustained possession.

“That team has a lot of firepower and one of the tricky things is to not make mistakes in the back,” UD coach Andy Meehan said. “They have the players to make you pay. We were trying to get the ball forward but weren’t able to get it to people and connect.”

Goldenberg played well in goal for UD despite the waves of pressure. The senior keeper came up with eight stops, including a couple on Touey and gave his team a chance to stay in the game.

UD dropped to 5-7-1 (3-6-1 SOL American) with the loss and although things haven’t gone as planned, the Cardinals have played hard through a myriad of injuries. That’s all Meehan can ask for, and he had no problem with his squad’s effort Thursday.

“We still have games left and I don’t like to get outworked by other teams,” Meehan said. “If we get beat by a better team, they can hold their heads up. What I look for at the end if effort and who wants to continue to play.”

Abington goalie Alex Haycock dives for the ball during the Ghosts game against Upper Dublin on Thursday, October 4, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The Ghosts went up 3-0 on a well-played goal when Touey got the ball in the box and laid it off right to Gavin O’Neil for a one-time volley. Friel got his goal with about 31 minutes left when he converted a rebound following another Abington shot.

Abington, now 12-1-0 (8-1-0 conference) on the season, finds itself in good position in both the SOL American and District 1-4A power rankings but the Ghosts know there’s still work to do. They were tripped up by Wissahickon in their first meeting with the Trojans and the Ghosts know they can’t overlook anyone the rest of the way.

“We have to keep it up at practice and keep working hard,” Friel said. “If we do that, we can carry it into the game and play as hard as we can and keep putting balls in the back of the net.”

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