ALTON — The Alton Redbirds had few problems with the Belleville East Lancers in Tuesday night’s Southwestern Conference contest at Gordon Moore Park.
Senior forward Matt Bower led Alton’s offense, as he finished with a hat trick in the 6-1 win, the first hat trick of his career. Bower scored two goals in the first half and one in the second half.
“He’s a quick kid,” Alton coach Jay Robertson said. “He’s working on moving in space off of the ball. He was recognized in some runs tonight and getting in spots and doing some good things with it when he got it.”
The senior first scored at the 24:09 mark to make the score 1-0 Alton. Junior midfielder C.J. Nasello kicked the ball toward Bower, who stood just a few yards from the goal, and Bower put the ball in on a header.
“I’ve had a lot of people who have been helping me out, like my friend Eric (Ferenbach),” Bower said. “And the coaches have been helping me out a lot, too.”
The Redbird’s lead would be short lived, as Belleville East’s Matt Sotiropoulos scored approximately three minutes and one second later, but Alton regained the lead at 2-1 when senior midfielder Nick Hatfield scored on a free kick (33:45).
Bower struck again at the 32:48 mark. The forward, just a few yards west of the goal, fired off a shot that landed in the east side of the net to make the score 3-1 Alton.
The Redbirds held a 3-1 advantage at halftime and it didn’t take long for the Redbird offense to start producing in the second half. Forward Stephen Nguyen scored early (40:30) in the second half. Alton continued to control the flow of play throughout the rest of the contest with Bower (45:45) and Skylar Funk (67:10) each scoring goals.
“We emphasized that we wanted to come out with a lot of energy tonight,” Robertson said. “We got the ball moving early and made some nice runs off of the ball, got some space and fortunately we were able to finish on some of those opportunities early.”
Robertson said that the Redbirds ability to win balls played a role in the win.
“The boys were energized tonight and we talked a lot about winning balls in the air and being the first to the ball and then doing something productive with the ball,” he said. “They answered and they played well.”
Belleville East coach Mark Lasley said he felt the contest was even for the first 30 minutes, but he also said “it wasn’t pretty after 30 minutes.” The Lancers’ starting goalkeeper — Jake Kerkemeyer — was ejected from the game after receiving a red card approximately 30 minutes into the contest.
Alton’s top scorer with six goals on the season, Eric Ferenbach, didn’t play on Tuesday, as he was sidelined with a separated shoulder from the Sept. 1 contest against Granite City.
Alton improves to 3-2-2 overall with the win and 1-0-1 in the SWC while Belleville East drops to 0-5 overall and 0-2 in the SWC.