FORT PAYNE — Alex McPherson’s second-half penalty kick broke a scoreless tie and Fort Payne’s defense kept the James Clemens Jets out of goal the rest of the way in a 1-0 victory at Wildcat Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“If it wasn’t for our defense today, we would’ve gotten beat,” Fort Payne coach Michael Farmer said. “Things we’ve been working on in practice, we didn’t do them today.
“We played great Tuesday night in an area win over at Arab. We were doing everything right and then they came out today and played the opposite of the way I coach them to play.”
After playing to a scoreless draw, the Wildcats (9-2-1) drew a foul inside the penalty area at the 36:26 mark of the second half. McPherson sent the ensuing kick into the top-right corner of the net.
“Luckily our defense played well,” Farmer said. “If it wasn’t for the penalty, this game probably deserved a tie, because we didn’t play well enough to win today.”
Fort Payne’s Jesse Espinoza cleared a potential Jets score in front of the net at the 38:10 mark of the second half, before the Wildcats worked the ball down the pitch and drew the penalty.
Luciano Esteban’s shot from 12 yards out was saved by Clemens goalkeeper Akshat Dubey with 26 minutes left in regulation. Kevin Quevedo whipped in a crossing pass from the right side, Esteban wrangled the pass and weaved around a defender before taking a shot at the left side of the goal. Dubey made the save.
Perhaps the Jets’ best equalizing opportunity of the half came with 17 minutes left. Quinn Mitchell poked a ground ball past Fort Payne’s goalkeeper, but the shot bounced off the bottom-right corner of the post and was swiftly cleared out of bounds.
The Wildcats’ last scoring opportunity came with 11 minutes remaining. A throw-in to Cristian Barrientos led to him heading a shot from 10 yards out. Dubey dove to make the save.
“We’re playing well in area games, which is what’s most important right now to get to the playoffs,” Farmer said, “but if we can’t get some consistency when we get to the playoffs where you have to play five straight games of good soccer, we’re going home.”
Both sides finished with four shots on goal. The Jets had five corner kick opportunities to Fort Payne’s four.
“We’re in great shape, which is a plus, and our defense is superb and keeping us in games that could get away from us,” Farmer said.
The Fort Payne boys were scheduled to visit Scottsboro on Thursday, but the match has been postponed to Monday, April 5.