Charleston hit the ground running, knowing full well only a win would see them through to the postseason. The Battery struck quickly as Dane Kelley ripped down the pitch with feverish pace. Some cheeky misdirection allowed him to deliver the perfect layoff for Zach Price. The Columbia native smashed home the opening goal as a stunned Charlotte was left to wonder what went wrong. Less than two minutes later, the Battery pressed their advantage and it was Mike Zaher who ripped a volleyed shot into the far right corner of the net. Patterson assisted the effort, and with seven minutes gone, Charleston had already scored their season's best goal tally. After the goal, the Eagles met in a team huddle in a futile attempt to regain composure and stem the tide of the 'Assault & Battery'. The Low Country Boys ran wild firing shot after shot, continuing to exploit the shell shocked Charlotte side. In the 30th minute, Zaher notched his brace with a brilliant conversion, bending the ball goalwards after some clever footwork. Defender Nigel Marples sent the through ball, opened the defense, and assisted the Battery to a 3-0 lead. A momentary lapse gifted the Eagles a free kick in good position and Charlatan skipper Gorge Herrera rifled a shot that pinballed off the Battery defense and into the net with seconds remaining in stoppage time. So ended the electric first half with the score 3-1, with the Battery licking their chops, hungry for the Derby win and trip to the postseason.
Following some back and forth play at the restart, Charleston found the scoresheet again in the 61st minute. A long ball from Sean Flatley was targeted by speedy Jamaican Dane Kelley who raced against a lonely Eric Reed, the Charlotte GK. If the league has learned anything from Charleston this season, they know that Dane Kelley vs. GK's = goals. The Battery were riding high with a three goal advantage and less than half an hour to play. There would be more drama of course; the game would finish in pulse-pounding fashion. A contented Charleston defense simply turned off with four minutes of stoppage time left to play allowing Charlotte to pull back two goals in as many minutes. An infuriated Andrew Dykstra lambasted his backline and the Battery withstood the few nervy minutes remaining. An ugly finish, but a win nonetheless. In one memorable evening, the Charleston Battery had lifted the Southern Derby, pressed on into the postseason, delighted the boisterous home crowd, and impressed a national television audience. The post-match fireworks were well deserved.
Well done boys and congrats on winning the Southern Derby!! Since we landed the last playoff spot in our division, Saturday evening we travel back down to Orlando City to face the top-seeded Lions. The other three USL playoff games will be played Friday night. Although Orlando are perhaps the last team we'd want to meet in the playoffs, the good news is we know exactly what to expect. We'll need to continue the high scoring form from last Friday, while tightening up the defense and keeping out those cheap goals. Let's Go Battery!! Time to tame the Lions and send them home early!!