RICHMOND, Va. - The Charleston Battery surrendered two sudden goals to the Richmond Kickers in the 45th minute Saturday night and never recovered, losing 4-0 to their oldest rivals.
For the Battery (4-8-5), the defeat was the team's fifth consecutive road loss. In the team's last three away matches, Battery opponents have now outscored Charleston 11-2. For Richmond (10-1-8), the win fortified its hold on second place in the USL PRO table behind undefeated Orlando City.
The scoreless match-up didn't look like a blowout in the making with a two minutes remaining in the first half. But when striker George Davis IV - whose two goals at Charleston on March 29 preserved a road draw for the Kickers - found defender Conor Shanosky lurking in the box in the 45th minute, their sudden goal shook the Battery. Only seconds later, Davis would score one of his own, catching Charleston flatfooted in transition and rocking the visiting club on the final play of the half.
Up until that point, Charleston and Richmond had played a clean, tactical half, with the Battery deployed in a 4-5-1 that featured newly returned Jose Cuevas in an attacking central midfield role under forward Mamadou Diouf. Though the Battery's touch was lacking, the team's game plan seemed to be frustrating the high-flying Kickers, finding space behind their midfield and clogging lanes in Richmond's attacking third. In fact, the Battery had outshot the Kickers 3-2 after 44 minutes.
But the home side's two shots in the final 60 seconds of the half were the ones that counted.
Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser started the second half with two changes, subbing in forwards Dane Kelly and Adam Mena for Diouf and left midfielder Zach Prince, who had picked up a yellow card in the 24th minute. The two generated some energy in the early going, but Richmond would smash Charleston's hopes in the 50th minute.
After running down an insightful long ball from Davis at the corner flag, fullback Alex Lee passed to midfielder Luke Vercollone, who picked out forward Jason Yeisley for the header goal and the 3-0 lead. It was the best play of the night by either team, and it erased whatever momentum the Battery had generated off the restart.
The Battery continued throwing numbers forward - and Richmond exploited their aggression in the 68th minute when Yeisley found Kicker's leading scorer Matt Delicate making a run at the far post. Yeisley's cross zipped across the face of goal, freezing Battery defenders who had no answer for Delicate as his slipped in behind them for the one-touch, point-blank finish. It was Delicate's 13th goal of 2013.
Despite backing off a bit in the attack, Charleston's high pressure generated chances in the final 20 minutes, with most of the opportunities coming off efforts by Kelly and late subs Justin Portillo, Maike Chang and Heviel Cordoves, who attempted three shots in 18 minutes and kept Richmond keeper Joe Willis under siege.
Willis and Battery keeper Eric Shannon - making only his fourth start of the season - both faced five shots officially, with Willis credited with five saves. Shannon earned one save.
The teams will play their final regular-season match of their three-game 2014 series on Tuesday at Blackbaud Stadium.