The BlueGreens came into their latest matchup with Dakota Fusion needing a win in a bad way, and they certainly played like it en route to a 1-0 victory at Denfeld, picking up three points at home for the first time this season.
“It was a much-needed win, and I think it was a deserved win,” Duluth head coach Joel Person said. “After we went up a goal, they did put us under some pressure there the last 10 minutes or so, but we did a good job staying disciplined and working hard for each other and preserving the clean sheet. It’s always nice when you can go without giving up a goal. Obviously, we have a pretty big rivalry with them, and that was the third time we’ve played them this season, and we’ve pretty much tied them twice. So to get over that hump and actually get a win is a pretty big deal.”
In another bright performance in the midfield, Joe Watt was the difference-maker for the BlueGreens, and his goal in the 58th minute separated the two sides in the end.
With Duluth on the offensive, Kyle Farrar flicked the ball through into space on the right flank for Liam Moore, who whipped a cross for Watt to collect near the top of the box. Watt took a quick touch to settle the ball, then lashed a low shot past goalkeeper Habib Beljulji inside the near post.
Despite minimal scoring, the match featured numerous opportunities in front of goal, with both sides playing directly and creating a number of attacking chances throughout.
Ryan Tyrer put a header on frame for the hosts in the 15th minute, and Aidan Hill followed up with an under-hit bicycle kick attempt on goal a minute later.
The hosts, looking to stream numbers forward early in the second half, nearly scored three minutes after the restart, but Beljulji made two key saves to keep out close-range shots from Moore and Aidan Hill again after a scramble in the goal area.
“One disappointing part of the whole game for us was we created a ton of chances to score, especially in the first half, and weren’t able to capitalize on those chances,” Person said. “I think if we put a couple of those early chances away, we might win by a landslide. That’s the game sometimes. Sometimes you finish your chances, sometimes you don’t, so we’ll keep working on that in training. Overall, I thought it was a positive night.”
George Gauld saw the best-looking chances for the Fusion (2-3-3) on either side of halftime, but his effort in the last minute of added time sailed high and brought about the final whistle.
With the BlueGreens (3-1-4) hovering in the top half of the NPSL North table, but still chasing conference leaders Minneapolis City and VSLT through the midway point of the season, their first win on home turf couldn’t have come at a better time.
Duluth dropped three points to VSLT on Wednesday, and will travel to face VSLT again in an important fixture on Saturday.
“That basically becomes a must-win game,” Person said. “Minneapolis City continues to win, so it basically puts pressure on the whole league to continue to pick up points in order to stay in the hunt. At the same time, I thought we played well against VSLT. We’ll be pretty confident going into that game. We’re looking forward to it, and we’re pretty positive coming into the home stretch of the season.”
Next, the BlueGreens travel to Ashland, Wisconsin, on Wednesday host an intrasquad scrimmage at Northland College.
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