Crusader boys come from behind to beat Woodsville

by Corey McKean
Sports reporter - The Littleton Courier

Woodsville's Antonio Houde and Littleton's Ben Sweeney battle for possession in first half action. Corey McKean. (click for larger version)
October 17, 2016
LITTLETON — With just three games remaining on the regular season schedule, two of the top teams in Division IV went head to head on Tuesday, Oct. 11, as the Littleton Crusaders hosted the Woodsville Engineers in a highly anticipated matchup. Earlier this season, Littleton edged Woodsville in a tight battle, by a score of 2-1, and the rematch wouldn't be any different.

The first half of the match was completely dominated by the Engineers, which led to a goal midway through the half to put Woodsville up by a score of 1-0, but the Crusaders came on to the field in the second half with a mission in mind, to stay undefeated, and they did just that. Littleton would come from behind and score back to back goals early in the second half to earn a 2-1 victory.

It was all Woodsville in the first half as the Engineers controlled the midfield from the get go and played beautiful possession soccer, which created multiple scoring opportunities early. Littleton would have opportunities of their own throughout the first half but nothing that they could capitalize on. Woodsville also man marked Littleton's primary offensive threat, Danny Kubkowski throughout the match, keeping him scoreless in the first.

The Engineers used their outside flanks extremely well in the first half, sending passes to the corners, which Alex Enderson or Antonio Houde would run down and create something off. In the 18th minute, it finally paid off as Houde ran on to a pass down the right flank, beat a Littleton defender and sent a bouncing cross into Enderson cutting down the middle. Enderson would get his foot to the ball and place a shot past the Crusader keeper for the 1-0 lead.

The lone goal by Enderson held up until halftime as Woodsville continued to keep the majority of the possession throughout the first half. As time was winding down, Littleton created solid scoring opportunities, really pressuring the Woodsville back line but still not capitalizing as the Engineers headed into halftime up 1-0.

Just four minutes into the second half, a muffed goal kick by the Engineers led to the ball being headed out of the air by Littleton's Derek Walker and finding the foot of Kubkowski, who fed Scott Ridlon a perfect through pass on the right side of the 18. Ridlon would strike a shot far post, which hit off the post and into the back of the net to knot the score up at 1-1. The early goal settled the Crusaders down and gave Littleton all the momentum throughout the second half.

The Crusaders would start to string multiple passes together throughout the second half and they took complete control of the middle of the field, which led to numerous scoring chances for them as Littleton continuously pressured the Woodsville back line.

In the 61st minute, their passing paid off as Kubkowski finally broke through for Littleton and put the game winner away. Todd Krol-Corliss would win a 50-50 ball against a Woodsville defender just outside the 18 and slipped a through pass to Kubkowski, who struck the ball off the bounce and into the back of the net to earn Littleton the 2-1 victory.

"We had to earn this one today," explained Littleton coach Jo Gardner. "Woodsville is a very good club. I didn't feel we matched their speed in the first half and subsequently were not controlling the midfield. That all changed in the second half when we realized we had to go to the ball more aggressively and win more of the 50-50 balls. When the boys started doing that I felt they became more confident and Woodsville got tired. We spent a lot more time in their third in the final 25-30 minutes of the match."

"Despite one mistake early our backers, Jason Brammer, Cy Kezerian, Ben Sweeney and Lucas Bray held a team that's been averaging 7-8 goals a game to one goal for the second time this season. Kudos to them and Quintin Ross. It was also nice having Logan Briggs back in the mix as he can really be a key to help us the rest of the way," Gardner added.

"They put more shots on goal where we squandered quite a few by not getting over the ball and putting it on net. We played well the first half but failed to finish and get a good lead and then fell back on our heels the second half. Littleton outplayed us and beat us to many 50-50 balls," said Woodsville coach Mike Ackerman.

The Crusaders were led by Kubkowski who had a goal and an assist on the day while the Engineers were led by Enderson with a goal.

Littleton improves to a record of 12-0-2 on the season while Woodsville falls to a record of 10-3. The Crusaders will play their final game of the regular season on Wednesday, Oct. 19, as they travel to play Lisbon. Game time is posted for 4 p.m. The Engineers will play their final game of the regular season on Friday, Oct. 21, as they travel to play Gorham. Game time is posted for 4 p.m.

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