WILMINGTON, N.C. – For two teams that entered with even splits on the season, Friday’s result seemed fitting as Bethlehem Steel FC and Wilmington Hammerheads FC played to a 1-1 draw at Legion Stadium. Bethlehem’s Seku Conneh grabbed a first-half goal and then the visiting expansion side conceded a soft goal to Wilmington’s Ashani Fairclough in the opening minutes of the second half. The match was the first of just two meetings between the sides this year. Wilmington moves to 4-4-5 (17 points) overall and 2-2-3 at home. Bethlehem is 4-4-5 (17 points) overall and 2-2-3 on the road. Wilmington also extends its unbeaten streak to four (2-0-2). The Steel are in the midst of a five-game road trip, starting out with a 1-0-1 record following last week’s win against the Charlotte Independence.
19’ – BST – Seku Conneh (Derrick Jones)
48’ – WIL – Ashani Fairclough
Three Things That Mattered:
1. Bethlehem’s opening goal appeared to develop in a slow motion as Wilmington’s defense looked flat-footed in the 19th minute. Steel FC’s Derrick Jones played a deep ball from the back toward Seku Conneh who made a good run between a pair of Wilmington’s defenders. Then from 20 yards out, Conneh casually lofted the ball well over John Smits who was off his line to grab a 1-0 lead. It was Conneh’s first goal of the season.
2. After Wilmington’s slow start, the Hammerheads were unfortunate to come away with a goal during a chaotic 29th-minute sequence that included a shot on net, two rebounds that hit the frame and then another shot on target. The Hammerheads took a quick corner kick from the left and crossed the ball in toward Kyle Parker, who redirected with his right foot. Samir Badr made a quick reaction save with his leg, but that was only the start. Bruno Perone rushed in for a header that struck the right post, the ball popped back out and Parker headed a rebound off the underside of the crossbar. Parker had one more chance for a header, and Badr leapt up and snared the final attempt for his second save during the sequence.
3. The Hammerheads got off to a quick start in the second half off of a corner kick from the right as Perone rose up with lofting header that Badr appeared to have an easy handle on, even though he had to leap up near the crossbar. However, Badr was unable to corral the shot and it popped out just enough for Wilmington defender Ashani Fairclough to pounce on it and drive it back over Badr’s head and underneath the crossbar to tie the score at 1-1. Fairclough has three goals on the season, which ties for second on the Hammerheads with Parker.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Ashani Fairclough, Wilmington Hammerheads FC - Fairclough took advantage of an early second-half blunder to help his side extend its unbeaten streak to four games.
Wilmington Hammerheads FC at New York Red Bulls II – June 26, 3 p.m. ET, Red Bull Arena
Bethlehem Steel FC at Richmond Kickers – June 25, 7 p.m. ET, City Stadium