GROTON – A fluke goal early in the second half opened the floodgates for the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders to come away with a 3-0 victory over the Nashoba Chieftains Tuesday at G-DRHS.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Chieftains stood at 1-5-2, but had not allowed more than two goals in a game. And after a scoreless, evenly-matched first half, it looked like the trend would continue.
“(Nashoba is} well coached,” G-D head coach Sean Wisbey said. “They didn’t have the offensive power that they’ve had in the past couple of years, but they still play good soccer.”
But the Crusaders got on the board in the 44th minute. Eric Niemoller lofted the ball towards the net, and the Nashoba goalie went up to haul it in, but didn’t secure it properly and it slipped through his hands and into the net.
“That’s something that will deflate a team,” Wisbey said. “I felt for him.”
89 seconds later, Matt Straw took a feed from Gabe Dingle and put a shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the net to put the Crusaders up 2-0. They would put the icing on the cake in the 53rd minute as Dingle took a throw in from Tyler Poitras on the left side and delivered a cross to Dean Tornaritis, who headed it home.
“I knew it was going to be a game that was going to go into the second half competitively,” Wisbey said. “They didn’t start out well in the second half. We knew we had to come out and score goals early in the second half to get the advantage.”
With starting goalie Chris Buzan out for another week with an injury and backup Nick Resca out for the season, the Crusaders were forced to put midfielder Tyler Belanger in the gray jersey. He turned in an outstanding performance, making six saves, five in the first half, en route to his second straight clean sheet.
“We’re starting to play better team defense,” Wisbey said. “Thing are slowly starting to come together defensively. When you play big teams like Algonquin and Shrewsbury, you can’t give up goals. They’re going to be tight games.”
The Crusaders have been treading water nicely with injuries, and with most of those players coming back in the next couple of weeks, including Buzan and Pat Keating, that can only mean good things for the Crusaders as they make a run for the state tournament.
“I’ve got five guys sidelined right now,” Wisbey said. “We’re starting to become a healthy team again… We know we have the offense to score goals… I’m pleased to be where we are.”
The Crusaders (8-3-1, 5-0-0 Mid-Wach B) improved to 4-0 at home. They outshot Nashoba 20-9, had all seven corner kicks in the game, and committed just five fouls to Nashoba’s 10. They can clinch a postseason berth with a win or tie Thursday at home against Quabbin at 4 p.m.
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