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by Marissa Blackman

Tonight's match between Wilmington Hammerheads FC and Harrisburg City Islanders did not lack in entertainment. The match had potential to end in the favor of either team down to the final minutes.

From the kickoff, Harrisburg kept possession and had most chances. Although many of those chances were either cleared or well wide of the goal, Harrisburg was so relentless that the ball barely ventured to the right half of the field for the Hammerheads to even make an attempt at a shot for most of the first half. This trend continued down to the 40th minute. At that point, the Hammerheads began having longer strings of possession and converted well placed passes into a few good chances.

In the second half, the Hammerheads were able to retain more control of the game. Harrisburg had significantly less opportunities to take back to back shots, and the Hammerheads created decent goal scoring opportunities. It was after one of said goal scoring opportunities that the single goal of the game was scored. After a Wilmington corner kick was cleared, the ball lingered in front of the goal, and several Hammerheads attempts were made and subsequently blocked. As soon as Harrisburg was able to touch the ball again, an Islander rapidly ran down the side of the field. With most of the players trying to catch up, the Islander had lots of open space. Though the Hammerheads tried to stop him, Cardel Benbow buried his shot in the back of the net in the 81st minute. The goal only quickened the pace of the game. The Hammerheads continued pressing and Harrisburg continued trying to hold them back. The Hammerheads made had some really close chances in the final minutes of the match but none of those shots became goals.

Though the Hammerheads certainly attempted less shots than the Islanders throughout the match, the shots made by the Hammerheads seemed to by more feasible. In the end though, goals are all that matter.

There were two factors in tonight's match that fall under categories that I usually don't discuss, but they were significant enough that they should be included. As the commentators noted, the pitch was rather slippery due to showers that occurred in Harrisburg earlier today. Although I tend to shy away from acknowledging factors such as weather and the state of the pitch, the slipperiness certainly played a factor in this match. At least once, I saw a Hammerheads goal scoring opportunity stifled because of the slippery conditions, and that could be the reason so many Harrisburg shots in the first half were so far wide.

I don't like complaining about referees or aggressiveness, but I would be remiss not to note a continuing incident that played a big role in the match. In the seventeenth minute Brian Ackley and Dante Leverock were both booked for an incident between the two, but the incident continued throughout the first half and spilled over into the second. There were times when both players were so distracted by each other that both teams suffered. It takes two to tango, but at least one of the instances when Leverock continued to act out after receiving a yellow card happened in front of a referee and the referee was made verbally aware of it. The referee should have given more than a yellow to one or both the players. I understand that some referees tend to let things go, but when an issue is causing so much stoppage and discussion, something needs to be done. Some last minute Hammerheads shots were cleared by Leverock, who arguably should have been ejected, and that certainly must make the loss sting just a little more.

Although Harrisburg has gained points, neither club has increased their standing position since clubs higher up in the table won tonight. The Hammerheads have now completed seventeen games and remain in 11th place. Wilmington Hammerheads FC will not play again until facing Charleston away on July 18th.

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