The Panthers strolled to victory away to Shadow Ridge on the resumption of conference play. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Olenak, Stephens, Ruffer, Stevenson, Robledo-Matadamas, Manthey, Gomez.
The Panthers were able to field their settled starting 11 and this made a big difference to defensive solidity. The Panthers dominated play throughout, restricting Shadow Ridge to one effort on goal for the whole game. Five minutes in, Henry Robeldo-Matadamas will wish he could have a second go at an effort he blazed over the crossbar from 6 yards off an Antonio Gomez cross, when it seemed easier to score than miss. The only action Shadow Ridge was getting the Panthers half was due to Panther misplaced passes or players holding the ball too long. One midfield turnover allowed Shadow Ridge to put a striker into the penalty area but pressure from Cole Lloyd and a comfortable save by Hudson Huckfeldt prevented a goal against the run of play. The Panthers’ breakthrough came on 23 minutes when Zack Ruffer converted from short range after Ryan Nogues, who had stayed in an advanced position after a surging run from defense, played an excellent ball across the goal. The Panthers continued to dominate and on 36 minutes Tim Stephens converted an excellent Robledo-Matadamas corner with a powerful header. Half time 2-0.
After a couple of minutes of Shadow Ridge pressure at the beginning of the second half, the Panthers dominated the remainder of the game and ran out comfortable winners. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Olenak, Stephens, Ruffer, Stevenson, Robledo-Matadamas, Manthey, Gomez.
It took only 10 minutes of the second half for the Panthers to extend their lead and make the game secure. Stephens was taking the opportunity to join the attack with surging runs through midfield. On one of these runs he combined with Presten Manthey who found Stephens with an intelligent flick pass over the defender who brought Stephens down as he was about to convert the chance. Manthey slotted the resultant penalty into the right corner. Shortly after Robledo-Matadamas was withdrawn for Mikey Venezia who too only five minutes to get on to the scoresheet. Adopting his position as the trash catcher beyond the back post, a Manthey corner from the right eluded everyone and came through to Venezia who faked to shoot and pulled the ball across the defender to shoot and score from a tight angle. Manthey was withdrawn for Dylan Rath, Teagan Jarvis for Braxton Tonks, Tyler Olenak for Atakan Saricayir as the Panthers sought to spread the load with back-to-back games on the calendar. Stephens almost made it 5-0 with an excellent shot from the edge of the area that was saved impressively by the goalkeeper, before being withdrawn for Arber Hoxhalli. The playing level and domination were maintained and the Panthers should have extended their lead further when an excellent through ball from Hoxhalli found Gomez in behind but he blazed his volley over the crossbar. Final score 4-0.
It was important for the Panthers to re-establish normal service after two defeats on the bounce. This was the first of three games this week and it was also important to maintain the points advantage at the top of the table and leave our opposition with little hope of prevent the Panthers from winning the division. We are five points clear with a game in hand with four games remaining and a win away to Centennial on 10/17 will put the Panthers in an almost unassailable position.