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NEWPORTâ€“Despite getting twelve shots on net, and a flurry of activity late, North Country's boys soccer team could not quite complete the comeback, falling to the Spaulding Crimson Tide 4-2 on Wednesday evening.
For the Falcons the problem seems to be that of consistency.
They look great for small stretches of time, ten minutes here, five minutes there, but they have been unable to put together the continuous amount of pressure needed to win games in the Metro division.
This lack of on-field continuity has assistant coach Tim Stanley trying to find the solution that best fits his team.
"What we are looking for is eleven guys getting on the same page for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time and manufacturing the ball up field and getting the ball into dangerous places and crashing the net," said Stanley.
As play got underway, it did not take the Tide very long to gain the advantage as Jack McQuesten converted on a ball that bounced off of the post and landed right on his foot.
Scoring the first goal of the game has been a problem for the Falcons, and co-captain Adam Viens says it must change.
"We haven't had that first goal yet and it really hurts us. So, next game we need to come and get that first one," said Viens.
It took North Country thirteen minutes of hard work, but they got on the board when Brad St. Onge headed in a cross from Chris Bronson to knot the game at one.
After the goal, Spaulding regrouped and controlled play for the bulk of the remainder of the half.
The Tide were very adept at creating space for their players, utilizing both the short and the long pass to gain separation from their attackers, while advancing on the North Country net.
Their systematized diligence paid off with 4:09 left in the first as Seth Wilmott emerged from the right corner with the ball, made his way to the front of the net and snuck a low shot past NCU's Ryan Paul.
With under two minutes to play, Bronson came close to tying the game, but his header just missed.
Eight minutes into the second half Spaulding made it 3-1 on Lucas Heath-Howes goal from inside the 18.
The Falcons had plenty of possessions, but they seemed to be bunching, which was a two-fold problem as they both got in each others way and did not have any outlets to feed the ball to.
With 19:41 left on the clock, Paul made a fantastic save on play off of a corner, but the ball got away from him and as it trickled across the goal line McQuesten punched it in and was given credit for his second goal of the game.
Six minutes were left on the clock when North Country got serious.
St. Onge had a great chance inside the 18, but couldn't convert.
Brad played a strong game for the Falcons, and his teammates noticed the effort he put forth on the pitch.
"He worked his butt off," said Viens of St. Onge's play.
Said Stanley, "Brad is the example of what we want from a soccer player. He doesn't have to be perfect, but you put yourself in a good position, a dangerous position and good things are going to happen."
The Falcons would get one goal back late when Kody Halikas took a feed from Ruffie Palin and put it home, but that is as close as they would get, and it stood 4-2 Tide when the horn sounded.
Ryan Paul had seven saves in the game and the score did not indicate how well he played.
"He was really phenomenal, especially for the first twenty minutes of the first half when he had a blinding sun at about eye level," said Stanley. "He was the best player on the field tonight, without him things could have gotten really out of hand."
Still winless on the season, North Country is need of a win, not just for the standings, but for the lift that it can give the team and hopefully get them going in the right direction.
But, as it is in the Metro, there are rarely any days off, and they Falcons must be on their game this Saturday when they travel to Essex to take on the Hornets.
Game time is 10:00 AM