The second half continues to be good to Garner’s soccer team.
The Trojans, two-time defending Greater Neuse River Conference champions, scored a pair of goals in a two-minute span midway through the second half to erase a 1-0 deficit and defeat rival Clayton 2-1 on Monday night at Trojan Stadium.
“I think we score almost three times as many goals in the second half as we do in the first half,” Garner coach Jon Sherwin said. “I really don’t like that. I’d much rather we win it in the first half and then relax, but they don’t do that.”
Garner (5-5-1, 3-1 GRNC after a 1-0 loss to Harnett Central on Wednesday) controlled the flow for much of the first half, but could not put the ball in the net. Ten minutes into the game, a Trojans shot hit the left crossbar – setting the tone for numerous near misses by the Trojans in the first 40 minutes.
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Clayton (2-3-1, 1-2), meanwhile, got on the board with its first shot on goal, which didn’t come until the 23rd minute.
Daniel Alioto headed the ball in the net from right in front on the goal on a free kick from the right side by Juan Alvarado to give the Comets a 1-0 advantage.
The half ended that way, but there was not panic in the Garner halftime huddle.
“It just seemed like the first half things weren’t falling our way,” Sherwin said. “I told them at halftime, ‘I don’t know what to tell you to correct your game because it seems not so much a function of what we are doing wrong as that we are not getting the balls bouncing our way.’
“I told them they had to be more careful about the little things – kicking the ball sooner so we aren’t getting the offsides, following up on the crosses. Everything just has to be that much more precise. They pulled it together in the second half and that is what you saw.”
The equalizer came when Matt Petherbridge took a pass from Junior Ayala just outside the box. As Petherbridge pushed the ball toward the goal, Comets keeper J.T. Palazzolo came out to meet him. Instead of trying to beat the Clayton keeper on the ground, Petherbridge lifted a shot over his head into the empty net to make it 1-1 at the 24:27 mark of the second half.
“If you know the keeper is coming out, all you have to do is spot it over him,” Petherbridge said. “I think that (goal) motivated the team a little bit.”
Less than two minutes later, Garner’s Alejandro Carbajal put the Trojans up 2-1 with a direct kick from 25 yards out.
Carbajal lifted the shot over the Comets’ wall of defenders and into the upper left-hand corner of the net.
“The goalie was all the way to the right so I knew I just had to place it in the right spot for it to go in,” Carbajal said. “I went over the wall and it curved into the upper 90. I just had to concentrate and keep my composure.”
The Trojans had eight shots on goal to four for Clayton.
“I thought the boys played hard enough,” Clayton coach William Williams said. “We just didn’t execute the way we should have. We got a good goal on a cross and a nice header.
“We gave the ball up in the middle too much. Our strength is on the wings and that is how we have got to play.”
Williams credited Carbajal with a superb shot on the go-ahead goal.
“That was just a great direct kick,” Williams said. “You could kick it all day out here and hit that once. No keeper in the world is going to stop that shot. We had the very same kick and didn’t put it there. That was the difference in the game.”