The Oakes, Oak Grove, Miss.-
Southern States SC Stars returned to winning ways with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Gulf Coast Conference bottom team the Florida Roots FC.
The Stars started strongly and dominated a first half that saw them squander chances as well as seeing goalkeeper Joshua Burton in outstanding form making eight saves in a first half cut short by injury. Burton had hurt his hand early on in the contest saving from Billy Boag and later in the half re-injured the hand saving a powerful drive from Danny Reynolds. The ‘keeper was substituted, and Zachary Moenier came on between the posts.
Burton’s time in goal had seen a couple of saves from Tom Shepherd, Boag, Reynolds amongst others and close calls as Sam Dadze headed wide while well placed and a Shepherd effort ruled out for offside against Reynolds.
Moenier saw out the half with the closest effort being a Tom Shepherd header that looped over the bar from close range.
The second half opened with the Stars winning a succession of Danny Reynolds corner-kicks. From one, Dadze again went close to scoring with a downward header. As the first half pattern began to repeat itself with Moenier making a full length save from Julian Avila, the game opened up when Shepherd put his earlier miss to rights following up an Austin Fain effort to send the ball home and put the Stars deservedly in front.
There was no way back for the battling Roots who fought hard to stem the tide. Just minutes later a fine Reynolds pass put Shepherd in for his and the Stars second goal.
Reynolds got another assist with another dangerous corner-kick as Billy Boag appeared alone in the six-yard box to head home the third.
For the Roots it was now about damage limitation, and they defended manly including some last-ditch blocks and interceptions to keep the Stars at bay. There was little in the way of offensive threat and Hector Grejeda in the Stars goal had a quiet night allowing coach Carl Reynolds to give back-up goalkeeper Gannon Key the last 15 minutes guarding the home goal.
The Star’s fourth goal was put away by Papi Diouf from a blocked Shepherd effort and that was it for the night.
The Stars have bounced back in style and now look forward to facing Conference leaders Jacksonville Armada in the final game of the season, next Saturday at the Oakes in Mississippi. The Stars will be hoping to secure home field advantage for the play-offs but have a fight on to overcome Pensacola FC.
What they Said
Two-goal Tom Shepherd reflected on his performance saying, “The goals were a long time coming but I had the chances second half and put them away. We stuck to our principals and moved the ball well, we stayed patient which we talked about at half-time, we knew we would get chances and we got them and put them away”.
Coach Carl Reynolds for the Stars thought this was his team’s “best performance for a long time”, adding “we were fantastic tonight, we played some really good football. Obviously disappointed at half-time as you go in zero, zero when we should have been up by four of five maybe. But we stayed patient and scored some beautiful goals in the end so it will stand us in good stead going forward. Our attitude tonight was as good as its been all season, we talked about that before the game. Can’t wait for Jacksonville next week, we want to test ourselves against the best”.
For the Roots Larry Cecchini rued his teams’ injuries explaining, “We had a lot of injuries tonight, obviously we were short on the bench, just think the inexperience showed in the second half. The big positive tonight was the performances of our goalkeepers. Burton in the first half probably had ten saves by himself, yeh, both ‘keepers did really well”.
Below: Two-goal Tom Shepherd battles against the Roots defender.