By Josh Brown
TROY — One five-minute stretch was all it took.
After Troy and Newton shut each other down in a defensive battle for most of the first half — despite a few solid chances for the Indians in the early going — the Trojans scored three goals within five minutes of each other to take a three-goal lead at halftime, and that’s the way the game ended after some more solid defense in the second half as the Troy boys soccer team held off Newton 3-0 Thursday at Troy Memorial Stadium.
“The first five minutes and the last five of each half, that’s when teams really come at you,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said. “That’s when they come after us or we really go after them.”
“We played well for 75 minutes tonight — all but the last five of the first half,” Newton coach Brent Hodges said. “We got a couple of chances early, think we scared them a little. I just wish we would’ve finished one or two of them.”
Newton’s Treyton Lavy hit the only ball that beat Troy keeper Alex Williams within the first five minutes of the game — but it ricocheted hard off the far post. By the time Luke Tebics got a chance for a follow-up, Williams had gotten back into position to make an easy save on the rebound try.
“We knew they were going to push up on us, so we figured if we could turn the field fast, we could attack quickly,” Hodges said. “But when you attack quickly, you’ve got to finish. We’ve got to work on that still.”
From there, the Trojans (8-2) worked at breaking down the thick wall of Newton defenders in the center of the field in Troy’s attacking 30, as the Indians packed their defense tight around the goal. The Trojans’ best early chance came on a long diagonal pass from J.T. Yenney to the head of Brandon Lewis, but Newton keeper Nelson Clymer made an easy save on the play.
“They did (pack the defense in),” Phillips said. “To break the defense down, you need to get players into the box and make quick, crisp passes — and pass to feet. We had to focus on breaking them down with quick passes.
“Our last match against Trotwood was the same way, we didn’t come out aggressively and go after them. In the first five, we didn’t come out with that desire to put them down early. We talk about it, but then we don’t execute it on the field.”
The end of the first half was a different story, though.
With 5:58 until the break, Ben Schreiber sent the ball across the field to Payton Hampton, who settled the pass and rifled a shot from outside the box over the keeper’s head to put Troy up 1-0.
From there, the floodgates fell open for a short time. Roughly a minute and a half later, Grant Holland set up another shot from 20 yards out, this time by Jake Diffenderfer Gabbard to put the Trojans up 2-0. And with 1:18 left in the half, Yenney sent another long diagonal pass to the goal’s back end, and Diffenderfer Gabbard one-touched it in to make the score 3-0 at halftime.
But Newton (5-3-2) didn’t allow Troy to add to that lead in the second half, and the Indians had a few decent chances to get on the board themselves. Each time, though, Williams was able to make a play to preserve the shutout.
With 25 minutes left, the Indians had a pair of point-blank shots in the box, with Williams saving the first and the rebound sailing wide. Then with 17:50 to play, Jack Yoder dished to Nick Honeycutt, who ripped a shot that Williams jumped up to grab. And finally at the 15-minute mark, Lavy had a direct kick from 20-25 yards out, but Williams made a diving save to deflect it out of bounds and the Troy defense eventually cleared the resulting corner kick.
“Lavy hit the post and had that shot saved on the dead ball kick, then that save on Nick’s ball,” Hodges said. “He saved them, otherwise it could have been a tie game.”
“Alex did a nice job in goal tonight,” Phillips said. “We got the three goals before the half, but unfortunately we didn’t create a lot of chances in the second half.”
Troy had another brief flurry on offense in the game’s final 10 minutes, but Clymer was able to keep the ball out of the net, allowing the Trojans to collect a victory.
For Newton, it was the latest in a string of quality competition. The Indians host Graham on Saturday before returning to Cross County Conference play Tuesday.
“We’ve had a long stretch of tough opponents,” Hodges said. “I think Troy is the ninth ranked opponent we’ve faced so far this season. We played well in all but the last five minutes of the first half.”
Troy, meanwhile, is off this weekend to prepare for its most important game of the season — the Trojans host state-ranked Butler Tuesday in a critical Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division showdown.
And Phillips wants to make sure his Trojans fix the first five minutes.
“It’s still a win,” Phillips said. “We have Butler on Tuesday, and that is one where we really have to come out ready to play for all 80 minutes.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.