News release from the Hammerheads:
CINCINNATI, Ohio – A close range goal from Paul Nicholson helped FC Cincinnati salvage a point as the club tied Wilmington Hammerheads FC 1-1 on a rainy night at Nippert Stadium. Another large crowd of 11,318 home supporters braved the rainy weather to encourage FCC (3-2-1) on to their first draw of the season.
“Our guys battled and showed a lot of resilience and a lot of character,” said head coach John Harkes. “Learning from one game to the next is an important thing and they are absorbing it. Even if there are controversies on the field, we have to focus on the positives. We have a big road trip coming up.”
Despite strong opening possession from FCC, it was Wilmington who opened up the score sheet just 24 minutes in. After a brilliant save by Mitch Hildebrandt to deny a Qudus Lawal penalty kick, the Hammerheads’ Mael Corboz put a low corner kick into the box, finding Bruno Perone, who put it on frame in the near post to give Wilmington the 1-0 lead.
Despite a few FCC opportunities before the half, Wilmington carried the 1-0 advantage into the intermission.
FCC came out of the half eager to find an equalizer and they found it just three minutes into play at the 48-minute mark. Tyler Polak took a free kick just outside of the eighteen yard box, his service finding Sean Okoli who put a close range shot onto Hammerhead goalkeeper John Smits. Smits made the save, but the rebound fell to Nicholson who slotted it home much to the enthusiasm of the home crowd. His goal was initially waved off by the sideline official, but after a brief discussion, Nicholson was awarded the equalizing goal, drawing the score even at one.
“It is kind of a strange experience to score against your old club,” said Nicholson. “I don’t normally score too many goals. It was a bounce off the keeper and I think it was pretty clear it was not off-sides. This is a brand new club for me and a great opportunity I’ve been given here. To make my first start and get a goal was an unbelievable experience.”
Wilmington almost took the lead in the 65th minute, but Hildebrandt came up big with back to back saves, denying both Lawal and Justin Moose inside the six-yard box.
FCC continued to push for another goal and nearly found their winner in stoppage time. On four straight corner kicks, FCC put strong pressure on Wilmington, who had to scramble to organize their defense. FCC nearly had the go ahead goal after Smits fumbled a corner kick and Harrison Delbridge ripped a shot on target, but it was saved off the line by the Hammerheads’ Corboz.
The weather played a key role for the match, as both sides were unable to capitalize on chances due to the slick ball and wet field. The rain steadily fell throughout the game, but eventually turned to a downpour with about fifteen minutes to play.
FCC edged out Wilmington on shots on the night, 18-12 and Hildebrandt recorded four saves in the draw.