CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo ENMU midfielders Edgar Bear, left, and Diego Santos fight for possession of the ball with West Texas A&M forward Ben Everson during the first half of Friday’s Lone Star Conference men’s soccer match at the ENMU pitch.
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s defense proved to be more than formidable on Friday against West Texas A&M. The Greyhounds got just enough offense to get the job done.
ENMU’s “English connection” of sophomore midfielder Kal Herbert and freshman midfielder Andy Wilkinson worked a play off a penalty kick for the deciding goal with under three minutes left, and the Greyhounds edged WT 2-1 in the Lone Star Conference opener for both sides at the ENMU pitch.
Herbert, who is from Willaston, England, dropped a free kick from about 40 yards out on the left wing to Wilkinson, from Lewes, East Sussex, England. He directed the ball past WT goalkeeper Sebastian Fuentes from close range for his first collegiate goal.
“I saw (the teams) lined up toward the (right) edge, and I saw Andy Wilkinson drop forward,” said Herbert, who also assisted on ENMU’s early goal. “We both saw each other, and I just bent (the ball) around the wall and into his path.”
Herbert’s near-perfect cross pass from the right side set up senior midfielder Edgar Bear for a header and a 1-0 lead with less than eight minutes gone. ENMU’s stout defense kept the Buffaloes in check until the 79th minute, when junior midfielder Dominic Furness sent a corner kick into the box and junior defender Manuel Montes headed it in.
ENMU (5-1), which has allowed just four goals so far and no more than one in any match, fended off several late charges by the Buffs (2-3).
“It feels great,” said third-year coach Harold Munoz after ENMU’s second win all-time against the Buffs (2-9-1). “It was a hard-fought game, and it’s nice that we can compete with them.”
Defense keyed the win for the Hounds. For the most part, they kept the Buffs’ offense in check.
“We work on defense quite a bit,” Munoz said. “It’s taken a little bit to do it, but we’re going in the right direction.”
WT was credited with just two shots on goal, and none until well into the second half. The game turned physical late, with five of the match’s seven yellow cards coming in the final 25 minutes.
The Hounds were the more aggressive team early.
“We went after them from the beginning, and we capitalized on one of our chances,” Munoz said. “I told the team at halftime that one goal wouldn’t hold up.
“I think this is the best team we’ve had. We’ve added a little bit of talent on the wings and brought in some muscle on defense.”
ENMU returns to action next weekend with an LSC match at Northeastern State on Friday and a non-conference outing against Newman on Sunday at Wichita, Kan.