If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. At least that's the mentality the Kirksville Tigers used en route to a narrow 2-1 NCMC victory over the Fulton Hornets on Tuesday night at the high school athletic complex.
Kirksville bombarded Fulton sophomore goalkeeper John Adams with 29 shots and it needed all of them as Adams recorded 19 saves and did his best to keep the surging Tigers at bay.
"That guy is impressive, he's a first-year (goal) keeper and a first-year soccer player, and he amazes us every day," Fulton head coach Joel Henley said. "He's like a sponge — he keeps learning every day and I was impressed with how he played."
Kirksville piled up 15 shots in the first half and Adams was able to turn them all away — except for one. Senior midfielder Evan McLain took a pass from sophomore forward Remerdie Ndiang deep into Fulton territory and was able to get a shot past Adams in the 17th minute to put the Tigers on top.
The Hornets (2-9, 0-4 North Central Missouri Conference) squandered chances to tie the game as senior forward Cameron Peterson narrowly missed the goal on two separate shots.
The missed chances would eventually bite Fulton as the Tigers extended their lead in the 64th minute. Kirksville senior forward Wil Dublin was able to sneak the ball past Adams with multiple Hornet defenders around him to make it 2-0.
Henley was pleased with his young team's fight against the Tigers, but the inability to score under pressure is something he feels the Hornets will have to improve on.
"We have to keep working on scoring in traffic. We didn't shoot the ball real well, but we did a better job tonight," Henley said. "We're just going to keep working at it and I know we'll get better in that area."
Despite being down two goals, Fulton attempted to mount a late rally with less than 10 minutes remaining.
An errant Peterson kick near the Tigers' goal caused a massive scrum where the ball came loose. Senior midfielder Gerard Giboney would come in soon after and chip in a short goal in the 33rd minute to bring the Hornets within one.
The window for a dramatic comeback seemed wider after Dublin was ejected from the game with a red card and Fulton attempted to press its advantage.
The Hornets were eventually able to produce some quality shots on goal, but failed to break Kirksville's barrier as they dropped another close NCMC game.
While the taste of defeat was still fresh, Henley was satisfied with the growth displayed by the Hornets and hopes to see it continue to develop as they hit the back stretch of their schedule.
"We told the guys they had to come out with a focus and they played 80 minutes of focused soccer tonight," Henley said. "I can't say enough about how hard they played tonight.
"The goals they gave up tonight were great plays by the Tigers and we had a few opportunities, but just failed to convert. Overall, we keep getting better and that's the thing for us."
Fulton goes on the road for an NCMC game at Hannibal at 5 p.m. Thursday.