Richmond, VA (WWBT)- An early goal by Shaka Bangura spoiled a long road trip for Antigua Barracuda FC as the Richmond Kickers claimed a 1-0 victory and three necessary points to move back into second place in the USL PRO American Division standings.
Off to an explosive start out of the gates, the Kickers netted the lone goal of the night in the third minute. A long ball was played out of the back to Edson Elcock deep on the right wing, who reached to prevent it from going over the endline. From a difficult angle, he served it back into the mix, targeting David Bulow who was lurking at the penalty spot. The Kickers midfielder misfired as the ball bounced to an onrushing Bangura who poked it over the line from point blank range.
Antigua's best chance of the half came in the 30th minute when forward Tamarley Thomas was taken down just outside the box. Forward Gason Gregory lined up the precariously placed free kick and fired a rocket from the left side, forcing Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale to leap in order to touch it over the crossbar for a Barracuda corner. Thomas delivered the inswinger into the crowded box, but Kickers defender Dave Hertel's header cleared it from harm's way.
As the end of the first half neared, Kickers midfielder Sascha Görres saw several chances dip just over the crossbar. First, he played a ball into the box from the right wing, but it took a big bounce in front of Luke Vercollone, who could not get a head on it as it bounded over the target. Then, he attempted a shot from distance but his left-footed missile from 25 yards soared skyward.
After the break, Antigua gained momentum, testing the Kickers defensive unit with a barrage of shots within a 10 minute span. First, in the 63rd minute, a loose ball inside the box was played out to Thomas on the left wing. He shook his defender and released a determined strike but Pascale was on guard and made the save.
Two minutes later, Thomas collected the ball deep on the left flank and played it squarely inside the box to a heavily marked Christian Ranja who fired a low driven ball from 10 yards, but Pascale dove to his left to push the ball wide.
The Kickers came close to adding a second tally when second half substitute Matthew Delicâte returned to the front line. Midfielder Stanley Nyazamba crossed the ball into the box from right side, finding the Kickers big marksman in the air but his header from close range rattled the crossbar.
Pushing everything forward, Antigua spent the last ten minutes searching for the equalizer and nearly capitalized in the 80th minute when defender Karanja Mack lined up a free kick 25 yards out. He served a resolute ball into a box swarming with defenders, allowing William Yomby to clear it from the danger zone. His header fell to an awaiting Lawson Robinson who volleyed the rebound directly to Pascale.
Then, in a last ditch effort, a streaking Randolph Burton carried the ball down the left side, finding himself 1v1 with Pascale. The Kickers veteran goalkeeper threw his body in the line of fire to make the block, but the ball ricocheted back out to a well-positioned Kimoi Alexander who redirected the ball from the top of the box, but his attempt whistled just wide of the left post.
The Richmond Kickers return to City Stadium next Friday, July 22 to host the Los Angeles Blues at 7:00 p.m.