Abington grinds out win over William Tennent

WARMINSTER >> William Tennent striker Dan Mehaffey was in all alone against Abington goalkeeper Sam Wells needing a goal to tie the game.

Mehaffey put a good shot on frame but in this duel, Wells was better, smothering the shot and as it turned out, the last truly dangerous chance for Tennent. Wells’ big save allowed his Galloping Ghosts to leave Tennent with a hard-fought 2-1 victory Monday night.

After trailing at the half, Abington exploited two breakdowns by the Panthers to win a high-tempo and physical duel between the Suburban One League National Conference rivals.

“They’re scrappy and work hard and that’s exactly what it was,” Abington coach Randy Garber said. “We fouled too much, we didn’t work hard enough at times, got caught watching and (Tennent) is very good at putting the ball in the box from distances and they’re looking for us to cause a mistake in order to finish a goal.”

While the game was a fast-paced battle, there actually weren’t all that many true quality chances. Nearly half of the first half had expired with just one shot on goal, an Abington free kick. The pace of chances picked up after the 20-minute mark however, and it seemed likely a goal was coming at some point.

A defensive lapse by the Ghosts provided just that. A service into the box was nodded down by Tony Ciarlante on a 3-on-2 and found Kyle Delevan, who put away the chance.

It was a good finish for Tennent, who had started the game a bit jumpy and wasteful with first touches and second ball chances.

“We played a really strong game tonight but a couple of mental lapses can determine the game,” Panthers coach Ryan Todt said. “I’m not going to look at the negatives and look at the positives. I thought we had a lot of positives, but (Abington)’s goalie played really well and kept the ball out of the net. He was the difference tonight.”

Tennent has been working on putting the right mix of players into the midfield. With a potent group of forwards and a back line of big-legged defenders capable of driving balls into the box, finding a middle ground has been important.

Abington on the other hand, got plenty of work out of its midfield, including influential wingers David Pohle and Juan Castillo. It was Pohle who provided the set-up for the spark that set up Abington’s second half performance. Not even a minute into the frame, Pohle played a service in to forward Matt Bachman, who put a powerful header on net that beat the keeper to tie the game.

“The goal less than a minute into second half was a big lift,” Gerber said. “It put us on track and our second header was as good as the first. Good service and good goals. There’s not much the goalkeeper can do with those kind of balls.”

After the equalizer, the game turned very physical with three yellow cards, two to Tennent, one to Abington, being issued in a seven-minute span. Aside from those, and a handful of other whistled fouls, players from both teams were fighting for every ball and even with the ball in possession.

The cards did help settle the game and J.R. McCabe got it back to soccer when his drive from 18 yards out was saved by Wells.

Bachman nearly doubled his output a few minutes later when Castillo slipped a tackle and threaded a ball up to the charging forward. The Ghost forward had a prime chance but Tennent keeper Brendan Hanratty was able to stymie it.

“It was a real good test for us,” Todt said. “We had won a couple of close games lately. We played physically well in those games and it was a physical, taxing week for us. This was five games in six days for us.”

The Ghosts were awarded a free kick on the left side, a few yards down from the corner kick spot. Senior defender Aiden Coyle stepped up to take it and he caught the Panthers sleeping as they tried to adjust their marking in the box.

Coyle drove a perfect ball into space, finding a wide-open Jason Gales, who directed a header into the net with 10:18 left for the eventual game-winner.

“Our depth will help us down the line,” Todt said. “Abington got us tonight in a one-goal game. Next time, we’ll look to even the score.”

To do so, they’ll need to beat a guy that was nearly impossible to do so on Monday.

“Sam’s a good goalkeeper and he’s not a only a good goalkeeper but a smart, intelligent guy,” Gerber said. “He makes good decisions. We count on him, he’s big, strong and athletic. He does a nice job in the back for us, he made a huge, huge save and it easily could be a 2-2 game and we could still be playing.”

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