The Panthers were back in action after an eight day layoff at Legacy and gained a hard fought victory. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Olenak, Stephens, Ruffer, Stevenson, Robledo-Matadamas, Manthey, Gomez.
The Panthers were without any defensive substitutes through injury and absence. In similar fashion to the game away to Arbor View, they struggled with ball control on a hard, bumpy surface, which affected their ability to play their normal passing game. However, the Panthers looked like they may take an early lead when two chances went begging. Tanner Stevenson stole the ball in an advanced area and was clean through. He chose to square the ball to Presten Manthey when he probably should have finished the chance himself and the under-hit pass resulted in Manthey’s shot being blocked. Also, no one could convert a loose ball at a scramble from a corner when it looked certain that someone would score. Legacy were better than the team the Panthers defeated comfortably at home earlier in the season and started to create chances for themselves. Fortunately, they could not find a finish and when they could hit the target they couldn’t get past the solid Hudson Huckfeldt in goal. On 15 minutes the Panthers finally got the breakthrough after an excellent passing move. Tim Stephens found Antonio Gomez on the right wing with an excellent pass over the full back. Gomez turned back inside and split two defenders with a clever pass to the advancing Manthey. Manthey took a touch and the ball bounced over waist height but Manthey was able to steer it past the goalkeeper with the outside of the right foot. Shortly after it looked certain for Manthey to score as he combined twice with Stevenson but an outstretched leg from the goalkeeper blocked his shot from 14 yards out. The Panthers had created the better chances but reached half time with one goal lead courtesy mainly of poor finishing from Legacy. Half time 1-0.
The Panthers cruised home but not after some curious refereeing decisions nearly altered the course of events. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Olenak, Stephens, Venezia, Stevenson, Robledo-Matadamas, Manthey, Montoya.
In the second half the Panthers improved their defending and restricted Legacy to very little. However, they still struggled with the field conditions, which affected the flow of their play. The play swung from end to end with either team unable to create a clear chance until 20 minutes in when Henry Robeldo-Matadamas on the left wing found Manthey who returned the ball with a flick pass behind the defense. Robledo-Matadamas delivered an excellent ball across the area that was converted by Mikey Venezia first time right footed past the diving goalkeeper. This gave the Panthers the safety margin they needed but this was put in danger when Legacy was awarded a penalty with one of the worst refereeing decisions we have seen this season. A ball over the top down the left side of the penalty area saw a foot race between Cole Lloyd and a Legacy striker. They were shoulder to shoulder and Lloyd managed to get in front to shield the ball out of play. In a successful attempt to con the referee, the Legacy striker ran at Lloyd and shoulder charged him then flopped to the floor. Outrageously the referee gave a penalty. However, Huckfeldt was determined to preserve the clean sheet and save athletically to his right for his second penalty save of the season. Ten minutes later the Panthers sealed the game with a third goal. Teagan Jarvis had been withdrawn with injury and a defensive shuffle saw Cole Lloyd move to right full back. From this position, Lloyd cut inside and delivered an excellent chip pass over the defense, which was to high and too square. The ball found Gomez who ran in on goal and finished right footed into the bottom left hand corner from just inside the area while under pressure. Then came time for the next curious decision of the game. The excellent Stevenson cut inside the goal area, beat one defender, and then when beating the last defender he was brought down by a scything slide tackle where no contact was made with the ball. The referee refused the clear penalty. The Panthers had to do major reorganization in midfield and defense as Tyler Olenak was withdrawn with cramp and Zach Ruffer was struggling with sore legs, but the Panther saw the game out with no major scares. Full time 3-0.
This was a big win for the Panthers against the team placed second in the division. While it was not the best performance of the season they found a way to get the result. Victory put them six points clear at the top of the division with one game in hand.