X-Men open AUS season with win over Panthers

Courtesy Andrew Barkhouse
Courtesy Andrew Barkhouse

Antigonish, N.S. - The StFX X-Men (1-0) opened the Atlantic University Sport soccer regular season with a 2-0 victory over the UPEI Panthers (0-1) Saturday afternoon at StFX Stadium.

After a scoreless first half, junior forward James Fitzpatrick (Victoria, BC), in the 80th minute, tallied what proved to be the game-winner, just a few short minutes after checking into the match. After sophomore winger Joe Ward (Newport, South Wales) curled a left-footed cross into the box, Fitzpatrick soared to put a header into the far corner behind Panther all-star goalkeeper Brett Strba (Windsor Junction, NS).

Early in the first half, the X-Men pressured to open the scoring but Strba stymied the home-side attackers on several occasions.

In the sixth minute, forward Dylan Lawrence (Ottawa, ON) could not solve Strba, while a shot attempt from Ben Herringer, after he split the Panther defense just one minute later, trickled wide of the far post. 

In the 19th minute, sophomore midfielder Dan Hayfield (Exeter, UK) had a free-kick chance, from close quarters, but once again the Panther keeper made a sensational stop.

In the 28th minute, UPEI garnered a great scoring opportunity, but the Harminder Singh (Cremona, ITA) strike went wide behind X-Men goalkeeper Matthew Lannan (Port Williams, NS).

In the second half, Singh collected an early scoring chance, but he shot it wide.

Ward, in the 51st minute, found junior midfielder Cole Suart (Ottawa, ON), whose strike just missed the net.

In the 59th minute, freshman forward William Warren (Windsor, NS), another second-half substitution for the blue and white, made a great run before securing a high-quality scoring chance. 

After showing a burst of speed to get a step on an X-Men defender, freshman forward Mohammad Jaber (Halifax, NS) put a low show wide of the left post.

Strba prevented StFX from doubling their lead, when he got his fingertips on a blistering strike from 30 yards out, off the left foot of Warren, and deflected it over the crossbar. On the subsequent corner kick, freshman forward Tane Caubo (London, England) put his header over the bar. 

In the 82nd minute, Ignacio Sanchez (Cornwall, PEI) took a free kick from 20 yards out, but Lannan, who recorded the shutout, made an easy save.

With the Panthers pressing for the tie in stoppage time, the X-Men cleared the defensive zone, sending Caubo in alone from midfield, before he bested a retreating Strba, who was also up in the UPEI attack, with a nifty strike.

Caubo, with his first AUS marker, was named the Subway player of match, while Strba earned the player-of-the-game nod for UPEI.

The Panthers return to action Sunday, in Sydney, when they face the Cape Breton University Capers, while the X-Women will be back on home turf to battle the visiting UNB Varsity Reds.

Both matches will kick-off at 3:15 p.m.