WENDELL — Word on the street is Millbrook got the wrong impression of East Wake during a preseason soccer scrimmage.
The Wildcats defeated the Warriors in an official game on Monday, but the 2-1 outcome after 80 minutes was far less glamorous than the 3-0 ending to the teams’ prior 45-minute encounter.
“I think we expected to just roll this team,” Millbrook coach Matt Edwards said after the clock cut short one final search for an equalizer by East Wake.
“There was definitely a lot more ability on the field than our guys gave them credit for, and to (East Wake’s) credit, they stuck with the game.”
The Warriors’ first-year coach, Michael Howes, explained his team didn’t change all that much in a matter of weeks – he had pulled out some of his starters during the scrimmage while Millbrook left its primary unit on the field. He said playing Monday within one goal of a team from the historically soccer-strong Cap-8 4A Conference counts for something.
“We’re staying with teams, and that should send a message to the other people,” Howes said. “What’s East Wake doing? Tying Cary and losing by only one goal to Millbrook. (Millbrook) is a very good team.”
What worked: East Wake (0-1-1) implemented a defense intended to clog up the Millbrook midfield, and it was effective at first.
The setup kept the Wildcats (2-1) away from shooting lanes for much of the scoreless first half. Subsequently, the Warriors were able to push the ball into the Wildcats’ defensive third in spurts.
Millbrook, however, foreshadowed things to come with a pair of near-goals – the second dinging off the crossbar – just before halftime.
Turning point: The Wildcats caught the Warriors off guard twice in the first eight minutes of the second half.
Austin Maune took over a ball played behind the East Wake defense and put it away in the 42nd minute. In the 48th minute, a similar feed set up John Janezic, who ran down the left side for the 2-0 lead.
Edwards, the Millbrook coach, considered it a stretch of good fortune.
“The two goals (East Wake) gave up were on turnover mistakes that they did not make at all in the first half,” he said.
Howes said Millbrook’s speed was the difference in the fast-break goals.
“With through balls, they caught us up,” he said. “Both of those goals were one-on-one with our goalkeeper, and that’s what we have to try and correct.”
Keeping it close: Layne Gairrett’s back-foot goal off a corner kick by Eric Laredo in the 66th minute gave East Wake a new perspective and got the Millbrook bench’s attention.
From that point on, the Wildcats put four shots on frame but were denied each time by Warriors keeper Jason Dean. His handiwork gave East Wake the opportunity to fight for a tying goal up to the final whistle.
“I hope our guys have a little more urgency in the box,” Edwards said of his team with the conference season on the horizon. “They haven’t had troubles finishing up to this point. (East Wake’s) goalkeeper just played an outstanding game.”