WOOD RIVER — It seems like an eternity, but the East Alton-Wood River Oilers finally got to play a game on their home field.
After playing their first seven matches on the road, the Oilers finally got to take the field at the Wood River Soccer Park Monday. It was worth the wait, as EA-WR came away with a 4-1 win over Valmeyer, improving to 5-2-1 with the win. The Pirates dipped to 3-6 with the loss.
The Oilers had little trouble with Valmeyer, taking a 3-0 lead into the break and outshooting them 28-3 in the game and winning the corner battle 7-4.
“It was great because we've been waiting for a home game all year,” junior midfielder Jordan Schmidgall said. “We really got going before the game started. We came out here about an hour early, got everybody pumped up before the game and had a good crowd so it was a good turnout.”
The Oilers were certainly happy to play on their own turf, but head coach Mike Lawson isn't worried about turning his squad into road warriors. He knows the postseason is filled with obstacles on the road so he wants EA-WR prepared.
“A month away from home is long, but we don't host regionals, don't plan on hosting it so we have to learn to win on the road,” Lawson said. “Rather we play three games a year, or 20 games a year, we have to learn how to win on the road. As far as the win today, 4-1, it's a good win, but the score isn't very indicative of the game. It could have easily been 10 or 12, but their keeper (Andrew Whipple) played very well. We missed probably six in on the keeper alone and he played fantastic.”
Whipple made 18 saves in the match as the Oilers controlled possession in the game and provided constant pressure. Lawson believes time of possession from his talent and experience in the midfield is a strong suit of his team.
“If we have a strength I'd say it's up the middle of the field,” Lawson said. “We like possession there and then we can dump it out wide and spread the field and get it back in. I think Jordan in the middle of the field is just a super smart player. He sees everything really well and directs the flow of the game. He gets people where they need to be and he runs every angle properly and closes down a ton of space always.”
The Oilers made their first valiant attempt to score in the fifth minute when David Barrett raced in and rifled a shot on goal that was saved by Whipple. Just seven minutes later EA-WR's pressure finally paid off with a goal.
In the 12th minute, the Oilers raced into Valmeyer's territory with five players against Whipple and one Pirate defender. Zac Lafferty punched it in right in front, while Luke Simms was awarded the assist to put the Oilers up 1-0.
Barrett nestled a ball into the net in the 22nd minute, firing it over Whipple from just outside the box. Lafferty earned the assist.
EA-WR's final first-half tally came when a Valmeyer defender slid inside the box to stop Schmidgall on a scoring attempt. The Pirates were whistled for a foul, setting up a penalty kick for Schmidgall, who buried a line drive in near the left post to make it 3-0.
The lead could have been loftier, but Schmidgall believed the Oilers were being too unselfish vs. Valmeyer.
“We had a lot of people who were trying to be unselfish,” Schmidgall said. “They would make the pass and it wouldn't be the smartest idea. We should have taken a shot. Then toward the end everybody started getting lazy. Everybody was sitting toward the half waiting for a through ball because it seemed everybody wanted to score.”
It remained 3-0 until late in the second half when Valmeyer finally climbed on the scoreboard. Brandon Tuttle found himself with an empty net in front of him and hammered it home. Trent Lawson assisted on the play in the 73rd minute.
EA-WR tacked on insurance in the 79th minute when Josh Turner scored out of a scrum in front of the Valmeyer goal. Lafferty assisted on the goal, making it 4-1.
Unfortunately, the game turned ugly as the goal was scored. With just 1:39 remaining on the clock, a fight broke out at midfield during the scoring celebration. Punches were thrown and a player from each side was ejected from the game. Another Oiler was thrown out for receiving his second yellow card for his part in the alercation. His first yellow came during a shoving match in the first half.
Lawson said it was unfortunate it ended that way, a blemish on a nice home-opening win for EA-WR. He said the physicality of the sport sometimes leads to flaring tempers and altercations that should never happen.
“It was a little foolish on both sides, especially on a couple of my guys, but in different sports that don't necessarily possess the cards it's a little different, but this was just foolish,” Lawson said. “Soccer is a game of physical contact and a lot of people don't quite understand that. It's very spirited at times and sometimes it gets a little too far, especially with 16 and 17 year old boys and testosterone through the roof. Sometimes it's part of the game and that's unfortunate, because that's something we've tried not to be at Wood River for years.”
The Oilers head back on the road at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Metro East Lutheran.