The Harrisburg City Islanders suffered their first loss at FNB Field on Saturday night in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of their instate rival, the Bethlehem Steel FC.
Harrisburg continued to struggle within the attacking third of the pitch and paid for it in the second half when Bethlehem’s Captain, James Chambers, tallied the opening goal of the match in the 54th minute.
The City Islanders comeback chances were dealt a tough blow when Lee Nishanian was given a red card in the 80th minute for taking down a Steel player right outside the box. Harrisburg had their chances to equalize the game after going to 10 men, but couldn’t break through.
“I thought our performance tonight was pretty good,” said Miller. “We had a couple of pretty good chances. Defensively we played pretty well and moved the ball well but we just need to toughen up in their box.”
With the loss, Harrisburg sits in 15th place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points on the season, while Bethlehem improves to 22 points and jumps to 4th place in the division.
Harrisburg controlled possession and the pace of play at the onset of the match but couldn’t mount any sustained pressure to make an early impact on the match.
Bethlehem got the first good chance less than 10 minutes into the game when their leading scorer Seku Conneh turned around a hard shot but Miller was in the right position to make the save.
Miller would be called on again later in the half when he just got his fingers on a piercing shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and down. The ball rolled along the goalline for a few feet before the Islanders defense was able to clear it out of harm’s way.
Harrisburg was able to tilt the field in their favor to end the half with a few quality chances, although none were too challenging for the Steel’s goalkeeper, John McCarthy. Their best chance of the first half came on a deep shot by John Grosh that flew clear to the left of the net for a goal kick.
Both teams traded chances late in the half but ultimately went into the break knotted in a scoreless draw.
Bethlehem wasted little time breaking the draw in the second half. Chambers received a chip pass from Anthony Fontana before striking it through two Islanders defenders and right by Brandon Miller for the ultimate game-winning goal.
Harrisburg got an injection of speed with both Paul Wilson and Cardel Benbow coming on in the second half. Benbow and Wilson worked their magic at times to create openings in the Bethlehem defense, who featured two Union loanees in Richie Marquez and Keegan Rosenberry.
It was tough sledding all night in the attacking end for the Islanders as they only put five shots on goal on the night, with a few being no challenge at all for goalkeeper McCarthy. Harrisburg has had trouble finding the back of the net in recent games, and having half of their scorers on the injury list for this game didn’t help that cause.
“We need to be better in the attacking third,” said Jamie Thomas. “It’s been a problem for me personally all season. I need to play more simple, get more crosses in and more shots on net.”
Harrisburg will look to get back to their winning ways at FNB Field when they return home on Saturday, June 24 for a matchup against Louisville City FC at 7 p.m. Come help the Islanders GO Pink with our Pink Night with Feel Your Boobies!