The Charleston Battery’s match against the Wilmington Hammerheads on Saturday night was billed as a rematch of last year’s USL Pro championship game.
Besides a 20-minute stretch to start the second half, it wasn’t much of a rematch.
The Battery scored four times in the first 30 minutes and held off a furious Wilmington rally in the second half to record a 4-2 victory over the Hammerheads before a crowd of 3,699 at Blackbaud Stadium.
It was the fifth straight victory for the Battery, which improved to 5-1-0 (15 points) on the season and moved into a tie for second place in the USL Pro standings. Wilmington, which lost Friday to Rochester, dropped to 1-5-0 (3 points).
It wasn’t much of a match during the first half. For the first 35 minutes, the Battery appeared to be in championship form, scoring early and often against last year’s finalist.
Charleston got goals from Dane Kelly, Nicki Paterson, Zach Prince and John Wilson all within the first 30 minutes, with Prince and Wilson recording long-distance highlight-reel goals.
“We played a fantastic 35 minutes,” said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “You saw the goals we scored. They were all fantastic goals. Nothing their keeper could have done about any of those goals. The fact that they came from four different players shows you the kind of depth we’ve got up front.”
Just when Anhaueser thought he might be able to relax in the second half, the Hammerheads scored back-to-back goals in the 53rd and 59th minutes.
“We got caught a little bit coming out at halftime,” Anhaeuser said. “We talked about it halftime. We talked about defending properly and keeping our composure. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say. We came out a little sloppy in the second half. They put us under some pressure and that’s because we didn’t have our legs going. Hopefully, we’ve learned a big lesson from this.”
Kelly started the scoring just two minutes into the game. After the Hammerheads nearly scored in the opening minute, Paterson lofted a beautiful pass to Kelly, who got behind the Hammerheads defense and easily beat Wilmington keeper Phil Tuttle for the score.
Ten minutes later, Paterson pushed the Battery’s advantage to 2-0 when he ripped a shot from about 30 yards out that beat Tuttle.
Then it was Prince’s turn. After picking up a deflection just outside the 18-yard box, Prince wrapped a shot around Tuttle to give the Battery a 3-0 lead in the 21th minute.
“The ball just kind of sat there perfectly for me,” Prince said. “I picked out the far corner and that was the end of it.”
Just before the half-hour mark, Wilson jumped into the attack, got the ball on his right foot and twisted a shot past Tuttle for a 4-0 lead. It was the second goal of the season for the veteran defender, who was a prolific goal-scorer at Clemson.
“I think some people forget I used to play up top,” Wilson said. “In the past, at the end training, I usually sit out when we’re working on finishing. This year, I decided that I needed a little work on my shot and it has been paying off for me.”