Edwardsville would have liked to score more goals Thursday, but the one that earned the Tigers a 2-1 victory over O’Fallon couldn’t have been more timely.
Senior Riley Patterson scored in a crowd at 76 minutes, 14 seconds off a well-placed corner kick by senior Mohammad Hamad, snapping a 1-1 tie.
“I saw (Alec) Mills coming in behind me,” Patterson said. “I was just trying to stay in there for the second ball. When the second ball dropped, I hit it with my head, it bounced off the goalie (senior Joe Guithues) and then it took everything I had to toe-poke it in the net.
“A lot of adrenaline, I guess. I was just there at the right time.”
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The victory improved the Tigers, ranked No. 1 in the News-Democrat’s poll, to 5-0-1 overall and 2-0-1 in the Southwestern Conference. O’Fallon fell to 2-2 and 0-1.
“We had a lot of players out there who could have won that scramble,” Edwardsville coach Mark Heiderscheid said. “I loaded up ... so all of a sudden you have five attacking players with one holder (at midfield).”
Panthers coach Jason Turkington wasn’t overly disappointed by the outcome because he observed improvement from his team over its last game, a 2-1 loss to Triad on Tuesday.
“We’re four games in,” Turkington said. “We lost in the last 30 seconds to Triad in a mudbowl and in the last three minutes here. It is what it is. But we competed better than we did the other day. That’s an improvement.”
Neither team had many scoring chances in the first half, which consisted mostly of midfield play.
The Tigers, however, took a 1-0 lead at 20:03 when Mills, a junior, crossed from deep in the left corner of the box. Senior Michael Picchiotti was rushing forward and met the pass at just the right moment and headed it past Guithues.
“That was a beautiful ball,” Picchiotti said. “That was a wonderful team goal, and you’ll see a lot more of that from us soon. I was so ready for that. It was an easy finish. It was a difficult ball to get across, but (Mills) made it look easier than it actually is.”
Turkington said the Tigers capitalized on a defensive breakdown.
“It was a beautiful goal by them,” Turkington said. “We made one mistake in the half. We had a weak tackle and a turnover and they went dink, dink, goal. It was a great goal by them.”
Play became more offensive-oriented in the second half. Tigers junior Kyle Wright shot wide left inside the box in a pass from junior Bayne Noll in the 48th minute. O’Fallon senior Austin Wilkerson shot wide right in the 50th minute, and Mills’ header off a long pass from senior Matt Busse was caught by Guithues in the 52nd minute.
O’Fallon tied the game at 68:11. Junior Jake Koenig’s free kick from the middle of the field was run down by his brother, freshman Ben Koenig, who finished past Edwardsville senior goalie Daniel Picchiotti to make it 1-1.
That’s when the Tigers turned up the urgency and scored the game-winner.
“The kids did a pretty good job of, once they got scored on, making that push,” Heiderscheid said. “We got it in dangerous areas. We got a couple of corners. We had it in there deep. The response by our team was very good. It was everything, honestly, that you could hope for. It’s kudos to our kids.”
O’Fallon will play at Collinsville in another SWC game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Edwardsville will play host to Gibault at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.