Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
A little finish went a long way for the Griffins men's soccer team on Sunday as they picked up a crucial 3-1 road win over the Lethbridge Pronghorns.
"The difference is we scored on some of our chances and we didn't concede on a set piece," said head coach Adam Loga. "That's been our Achilles' Heel all year and we showed today that was the difference.
"It was good that we kind of checked those boxes and found solutions for that today. We look forward to the next games. Four points in the last three games, so we're excited about that."
Statistically, the opening 45 minutes were even across the board in all but one stat, the most important one, the scoreboard. The Griffins carried a 1-0 lead into the break after Hernandez's second goal of the season in the 24th minute. He sent a rocket from 25 yards out that went off the crossbar and in.
Ellis Davies had the best chance for the Pronghorns in the first half, forcing Dory Elliott to dive to his left and just getting a piece of the ball.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Dominique Point du Jour nearly tied the game for the Pronghorns. From a free kick, just outside the penalty area, he curled the ball around the Griffins' wall but found the crossbar.
Just shy of the 70th minute mark, the Griffins gained some insurance with what would prove to be the winning goal. Lahai Mansaray's first attempt went off the post but right to the foot of Mayall for a tap-in – his first of the season.
With 15 minutes remaining, Lethbridge's Stephen Primeau had a good look to bring the Pronghorns back within one but his header off a corner kick just sailed over the bar.
While the Pronghorns continued to pressure to get on the board, it was the Griffins that would seal the win off a broken play. With MacEwan attacking in numbers, Moyo's attempted pass into the middle of the box was blocked. However, the ball went right back to Moyo, who poked the ball through a crowd and off the post and in.
The Pronghorns spoiled Elliott's shutout bid in the 87th minute. Point du Jour made a great run deep into the Griffins' end and cut the ball back to a wide-open Primeau, who put away his third of the season.
MacEwan leading scorer Mansaray had three assists in the contest to run his point total to eight in 10 games. Not only is that third-best in the conference, he now holds the school record for points in a season (with four games to play). Additionally, Mansaray's three-point game broke the MacEwan Canada West record for points in a game.
More importantly, his efforts and those of midfielder John Andrew Koe-Kulig, whom Loga called their "engine and pulse on the pitch" Sunday, led to a result that snapped a seven-game winless streak.
"The vibe in the room was great after the game," said Loga. "We're happy for the boys as a staff. We've all worked hard. It has been a process and we are progressing.
"I think with a young room and a young group, they're starting to see the reasons why we're in a situation today compared to previous ones – noticing the importance of set pieces, noticing the importance of finishing our chances and knowing that was the difference from our previous matches to today."
The Griffins head into a bye weekend before returning to the pitch for a home-and-home series against cross-town rival Alberta Oct. 14-15. They'll close out the regular season at home against Mount Royal and Calgary Oct. 21-22.
-With files from Eoin Colquhoun, Pronghorns Athletics