The Oakes, Oak Grove, Miss. –
The Stars seem to be starting their inaugural season well enough as they moved to 3-0 on the season with a 2-1 victory over the New Orleans Jesters on Saturday night in Oak Grove, Mississippi.
For the team, it was a three-game home opening, winning run. Any fears of a difficult season ahead as an expansion team seem to have been allayed.
The Jesters brought experienced competition and a wily and experienced coach in Kenny Farrell, ready to test the Stars credentials and test them they did.
It was the Stars who should have drawn first blood on just 7 minutes when two Jesters defenders got in a mix allowing Julian Avila to streak in on goal, but his left footed shot lacked the power and direction and was blocked. From the resulting corner-kick, Andre Deas should also have done better when he stabbed at the ball only to miss the chance at the back post.
The Stars nearly gave the Jesters an opening goal losing possession deep in their own half only for Luciano Galizza to fire high and wide.
The Jesters were proving to be a more difficult proposition than either of the two previous games the Stars had come out on top from. The Jesters showed strength and know how to blunt the Stars early attacks and still find a positive attacking threat of their own.
From a fast breakaway after some Jesters pressure, Liam Bennett set up Atila Sepkin on the top of the penalty box and his shot was saved by ‘keeper Lamoy Graham, diving low to his left to turn the effort around the post.
It was an action-packed opening 19 minutes and the action got even more exciting as Mason Morise in the #11 shirt cut in from the left to send an angled effort past Hector Grejeda in the home goal to put the visitors in front. It was the first goal conceded by the Stars this season.
Having conceded first and going behind for the first time in three games, the emphasis was now on the Stars to react.
The Jesters tried to tighten their grip on the game, but the Stars were still dangerous. Clear chances were few as the half wore on but on 32 minutes local Hattiesburg boy Heath Flathau found just enough space behind the Jesters defense to whip in a near post cross which Liam Bennett coolly guided home to level the scores at 1-1.
Both sides traded some goalscoring openings without finding the back of the net again and the half ended all square.
In the opening ten minutes of the second half chances were limited, Danny Reynolds hitting a long free kick wide of the Jesters goal and Sheldon Green for the Jesters also struck from long range without troubling Grejeda.
The game was now a contest of which team could open up the other and find the winning goal. Stars as the home team pushed forward more with the Jesters not so ambitious hoping to find a fast break. As both sides worked hard to cancel out each other’s goal threat it was always possible a set play might provide the breakthrough.
On 67 minutes it came via Danny Reynolds right wing corner-kick which found Andre Deas alone at the far post to bundle the ball over the line from close range. The more than 400 fans in attendance roared wildly. The Jesters will have been disappointed to have conceded such an ugly goal, but Deas was in the right place at the right time for the Stars.
Julian Avila had a good opportunity blocked and the Jesters missed a clear chance but that was it for the final quarter of the game as the Stars held on to win without too much anxiety.
At 3-0 the Stars will now go away from home, next visiting Tallahassee S.C. and Pensacola FC before returning home again. They will be looking to take their winning home form onto the road with them.
For the Jesters who sit at 0-1-1 it will be two home games against Port City FC and the Jacksonville Armada, hoping to get onto the winning track.
What They Said
Coach Carl Reynolds expected a tougher game tonight and said, “We knew all week we were expecting a different game, that we would have to show a different side of ourselves. Nobody in the league is going to doubt that we can play the game in a really attractive way bit its, can we mix it as well, and the boys showed tonight that they could do that. We’re really proud and if we’re going to be successful, we are going to have to win all different ways, so, its really, really, good. Really pleased with the reaction after going a goal down, we didn’t panic, we just kept playing. The boys are delighted, and they’ll take a couple of days off now”.
Winning goal scorer Andre Deas was a happy man, “It feels good. I was looking for a goal the whole season so far, it came in this game, in this type of environment, it means a lot, They gave us a run for the money but we stayed strong, came back from behind and we just kept our composure and fought to the end to win it”.
Jesters head coach Kenny Farrell thought the Stars were “A well put together team”, but added, “It started to become a very good game in the second half, a lot of tactics going on. We got a chance, they got a chance, then we make a mistake, the ‘keeper loses the ball, and it goes off their player’s shin into the net. We’re missing five players tonight but I’m not using that as an excuse, you play with what you got. They didn’t have a lot of chances but player for player they were deeper than us”.