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NHIAA Soccer: Salem soccer holds Pinkerton at bay

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 17. 2017 12:34AM

SALEM - Justin Golden realized his undefeated Salem High boys' soccer team hadn't seen the cream of the crop in Division I heading into Saturday morning's tilt with perennial contender Pinkerton of Derry.

Getting their first taste of the league's best was no bother to the Blue Devils, though, as they took care of the Astros in a 1-0 victory filled with physicality.

Josh Fichera's strike midway through the first half accounted for Salem's lone goal before the Blue Devils (6-0) stacked the box defensively to limit the Astros' chances.

"We've really relied on our back line and just tried to contain teams until we get an opportunity to counter-attack," Golden said. "We feel comfortable defending in our own half and we know when we have a chance to spring and take advantage of a forward opportunity, then we have the physical guys up top to run all day."

The game's lone goal came when Fichera worked down to the left post following a touch pass and found an angle around the defender on his hip to get a shot off.

"I think I had the edge on them the whole game, really," Fichera said. "It was just the speed there in that one moment. I got a step in front of him and knew there was something for me."

There were only a few true opportunities for Salem after the goal, but the Blue Devils did well to keep the ball out of their own end for the majority of the contest. When it came making the best of possessions and finding space, Fichera and fellow striker Kyle Chute connected well with Salem midfielders Alex Heghinian, Nick Hayes and Lucas Moreno.

"We're very good with tracking down balls," Fichera said. "We all like to run and we're running off the ball very well. It's all working out nice so far."

The physical nature of the game came before and after the goal as the two clubs combined for four yellow cards. Pinkerton coach Kerry Boles said he expected a physical contest from Salem, but the Blue Devils appeared to play with more aggressive finesse than any consistent bumping and bruising. However, the Astros (2-4) tried to play more physically instead of staying within its usual game plan. "We lost our heads and did a lot of stupid things, which is not typical of teams we have here," said Boles, whose club has lost four in a row and the last two by scores of 1-0. "So there's that and then you're playing on a small field with rough conditions while nine of their guys are on their side of the field. There's not a lot of passing lanes through that."

Pinkerton was missing Cole Perry, its top weapon, which made it even more difficult for the Astros to drum up momentum through the Blue Devils' stingy team defense. The shots Pinkerton did get through were gobbled up by Salem keeper Anthony Bellomo (four saves), who took to the air for free balls inside the box on several occasions.

"The strong hands and awareness in the box are where Anthony has improved the most," Golden said. "He hasn't had to make too many saves to date, but those hands and positioning have really helped to bail us out a few times already this year."

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