NHIAA Boys' Soccer: Astros hand Lancers first lossBy JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 24. 2017 3:05AM
DERRY - You're not going to find a bigger boost than what the Pinkerton Academy boys' soccer team gave itself on Saturday.
The Astros had won just once in their last five tries before dropping rival Londonderry for a much-needed 2-0 win. Alex Rust and Ashim Gurung offered second-half goals for Pinkerton (4-4) while handing Londonderry (6-1-1) its first loss.
"There have been more downs than ups recently," Pinkerton coach Kerry Boles said. "We've continued to grind things out and see what we can do (in each game). ... We needed to find a way to post a crucial victory against somebody ahead of us in the standings. This was it.
"I take my hat off to my guys for just fighting, fighting and fighting. It was more than effort, really. They finally played smart."
Rust broke a scoreless tie in the 51st minute with a crafty score off a Joe Palmer throw-in. Palmer hoisted the throw into the goalie box where Rust knocked the ball down with his shoulder, flicked the ball through Londonderry goalie Alex Hufford and then worked around the keeper to retain possession before finishing.
"It's all about continuing to fight, especially after having all chances we did throughout that first half," Rust said. "It's all about taking your time, keeping a cool head and getting a composed finish."
Gurung produced the insurance goal for the Astros 20 minutes after Rust's strike, as Palmer curled a corner off Gurung's head and in. While Pinkerton can't always count on consistent offense from set pieces, that's not stopping Boles from drilling his club to be polished when set opportunities arise like they did Saturday.
"If we can score one set-piece goal each game, we feel like we're going to have a chance to come out on top," Boles said. "We're working on it a lot right now because you never know when you're going to find a score in the flow of the game, which we haven't done lately. It certainly didn't come in the last three games, so we have to rely on the set pieces."
The setback for Londonderry came from both its own doing and a strong effort from Pinkerton keeper Max Fairbank. Hard touches left the Lancers tough angles on the attack but even when their forwards got a step ahead, the junior keeper came up with a save or came off his line to meet the rush.
Fairbank (nine saves) stuffed Josh Rutina, Nick Dawe and Tyler Van Avery on clean looks in the first half. The biggest stop came in the 59th minute when Fairbank stoned Van Avery in the goalie box after a quick touch each from Dawe and James Cramner set up the chance.
"I don't know if our effort was as consistent as it needed to be to win today," Londonderry coach Todd Ellis said. "There were a couple times we brought the keeper into play by not giving more effort on a ball. That's just one thing, but our execution in the final third of the field wasn't what it could've been or needed to be."