Chaplin, Cheltenham edge Upper Dublin on pitch

Just judging by records of Monday’s Suburban One American Conference game between Upper Dublin and Cheltenham it looked like a match-up of two middle of the pack teams just slugging it out for a conference win. The Cardinals however entered as the conference’s reigning co-champ and Cheltenham despite a slow start to the season is starting to find chemistry and play some good ball.

The game had a bit of everything. Drama, a steady second half rain, near misses, a comeback for Upper Dublin and late game winner for Cheltenham by junior Brendan Chaplin in the 78th minute as the Panthers won the American Conference face-off 2-1.

“I think Chappy did a real nice job of keeping his composure there,’ Cheltenham senior Gene Han said of Chaplin. Chaplin, who was carded in the second half, seemed to lose a little focus but was able to re-gather to hit the game winner. “After he got that reality check with the ref I think he got his head in the game, (and) he came back in. He’s not really a shooter from distance but he can tuck it away when its close.’

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead into halftime. However, they have been susceptible to losing games this season that they should win. Cheltenham still controlled the second half of the game but that did not stop the Panthers from surrendering a game-tying goal in the 61st minute.

“We played a close game with them early in the year, we only beat them 3-2 so we know how dangerous they can be,’ Upper Dublin coach Derek Priest said.

Another area where Cheltenham can be exposed this year is off of corner kicks. Prior to the Panthers allowing the game-tying goal off a corner Upper Dublin hit the post just four minutes prior, just narrowly missing an opportunity to tie the game up.

“Our set pieces have been successful all year,’ Priest said. “We were hoping to get at least one which we did.’

Cheltenham was really able to win the game in the midfield with Han, David Aaron and Josh Ryan winning balls in the air and first and second touches. The midfield wins helped the Panthers spring its speedy forwards especially Abe Austin.

“Not only were they winning the first but they were winning the second ball as well,’ Priest said. “I’ve spoken with the guys about winning those 50-50 balls.’

Right now both the Cardinals and the Panthers are chasing Plymouth Whitemarsh and Wissahickon for the top of the conference, both teams are still in contention to not only win the conference but to make a playoff push as well.

“We all know each other’s limits and we know how to recover for each other and pick each other up,’ Han said. “We have a lot of chemistry and we’re all really close friends so we know (each other).’

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