By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Northeastern State men’s soccer coach Bobby Peterson wasn’t an overly happy camper Friday, except for one thing — his team won.
The Redmen fell behind late, but scored twice in the final seven minutes to eke out a 2-1 Southwest Soccer Conference victory over Eastern New Mexico University at the ENMU pitch.
Peterson was perturbed over some calls that went against his team, but said there were shaky calls made both ways. In particular, he questioned a red card given to Redmen midfielder Paul Marshall late in the game, an automatic ejection.
“It’s unfortunate that sometimes referees get involved in a game, for both teams,” Peterson said. “I feel bad for those guys (Greyhounds); they played better than we did today. They played hard; hats off to those guys.”
In a match dominated by defense, the intensity picked up down the stretch — especially after ENMU sophomore forward Cesareo Contraras took a through pass from forward Keith Vargas with 17 minutes left and broke the scoring ice by sliding to knock the ball past charging Northeastern goalkeeper Ransone Ross.
The Redmen (5-1-1, 2-0 SSC) tied it when junior midfielder Ryan Tanner took a crossing pass from midfielder Robert Yang and knocked the ball into the upper right corner of the net. Then freshman midfielder Clark Bradford punched a free kick past the ENMU line and into the upper right corner with 3 1/2 minutes left.
ENMU coach Carlos Elizondo said referee Chris Sanchez had asked the ENMU wall to back up and give Bradford 10 yards. Because he did that, Elizondo said, the play shouldn’t have started before the whistle was blown.
Still, he said the effort was good against one of the top teams in the region.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” he said of the loss. “Everybody played well. Leif (Craddock) did a good job in the net, and our freshmen did well today.
“The boys played with discipline. It wasn’t the result that we wanted, but I’m proud of the team for giving it their all.”
Peterson said he wasn’t surprised the match was competitive.
“We’ve struggled all year,” said Peterson, whose team has been outscored 15-13 this season despite its record. “When we play teams where we’re supposed to lose, we usually play really well, but when we play teams we’re supposed to beat we struggle.”
For the Hounds (1-4-1, 0-2), who have lost four in a row, Sunday’s 1 p.m. home match against Missouri Southern could go a long way toward determining their fate in the SSC’s postseason tournament, which will include four of the league’s five teams.
The Lions (0-5-1, 0-2) lost at West Texas A&M 2-0 on Friday, and have not scored this season.
“It’s going to be a tough grind for teams to get into the conference tournament,” Elizondo said. “I’m disappointed we lost today, but not in the effort. There’s not too much more you can ask for.”