SALISBURY, N.C. --- Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.) flicked a long free kick from goalkeeper Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) at the death to lift the Lees-McRae College men's soccer team to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Catawba College on Sunday evening in Southeast Region play.
Catawba (1-1) edged Lees-McRae (1-1) in attempts on goal in the match by a 12-10 margin, including a 9-8 advantage in the second half, while the Bobcats took seven corner kicks to the Catawba Indians' five. Sophomore James Smith (Eastbourne, England) paced the Bobcats with six shots, including three on frame, as Rusling notched his first collegiate assist on the winner.
Alford tallied his first goal of the season and second career match-winner, as Rusling made five saves in his 10th career clean sheet. Carson Smith led the way for Catawba with six shots, including three attempts on frame, as Evan Harvey stopped four shots between the pipes for the Catawba Indians.
Lees-McRae nearly got off to a flying start in the 13th minute, when James Smith's first effort drew a spectacular from Harvey before the sophomore's subsequent attempt was blocked before reaching goal. Catawba had a glorious chance in the 28th minute, when Carson Smith's header sailed just wide of the post as his 34th minute attempt forced a saving effort from Rusling.
The second half featured an early barrage by both teams, as each keeper was forced to make several crucial stops to preserve the deadlock in the opening 20 minutes of the period. James Smith had a glorious chance to provide the breakthrough in the initial moments of the 66th minute, ringing the bar before James Galvani's (High Wycombe, England) subsequent effort sailed just wide.
After Rusling made a fantastic save to preserve the deadlock in the 84th minute, the goalkeeper stood over a free kick on his half of the pitch 10 yards short of the midfield line in the 90th and sent a lofted ball into the opposing area, finding Alford for a leaping header that found the back of the net with 19 seconds left on the clock for the deciding goal.
"Catawba is a difficult place to go," said Bobcat head coach Lee Squires. "The crowd was passionate and it would have been easy to hide. We didn't, and ultimately got the goal I thought we deserved. I'm very proud of the boys tonight."
Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Friday, September 7 when the Bobcats travel to Greeneville, Tenn. to take on Tusculum College in the evening match on the first day of Tusculum's Stanno Tournament at 7 p.m. on Pioneer Field.
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