A lone goal from forward Ben Wignall ‘18 was enough to see the Stags through to victory in their first home match of the season. It was a slow opening to the first half for both sides, with neither able to gather much offensive momentum. Both sides were cautious in the first stages, and played tight, strong defense at midfield throughout the match.
The Stags picked up the pace after nearly 15 minutes played, and would have possession for the majority of the half. Despite a clear Fairfield advantage – outshooting Yale 7-3 – both sides would enter halftime scoreless.
Yale would come out firing in the second half, sending two clear chances just off target in the opening minutes. However, the Stags would find the back of the net against the run of play in the 52nd minute. A deflection off of a shot from Jordan Ayris ‘14 fell to Wignall in the center of the penalty area, who coolly slotted it into the bottom left corner with 38:46 left to play.
“It was just about persistence,” Wignall said. “At halftime we kept saying, ‘Keep going, we know it’s going to come,’ and luckily the chance came for me.”
Most of the second half saw much of the same stagnation at midfield, with neither side able to hold possession for more than a few moments. The neutral period proved to be a stonewall for both teams, with neither offense able to find holes and craft any real advantage. The Stags were content to slow their pace and tighten their midfield as the second half neared the 10 minute mark.
Yale nearly tied the game with a strong breakaway in the 59th minute, sending a solid header toward the center of the goal, which had to be tipped away brilliantly by goalkeeper Matt Turner ‘16. The Bulldogs would throw everything they had at the Stags’ defensive third in the final five minutes, but failed to truly threaten Turner’s goal who picked up his third clean sheet in four matches of the season in front of a packed Lessing Field.
“The crowd was brilliant,” said Wignall. “They just kept us going and kept us on top. They were our 12th man tonight.”
Fairfield’s stingy defense proved to be the tipping point yet again, as they were outshot 10-9 and surrendered seven corner kicks, and managed to keep Yale off the scoreboard.
“We’ve been very good defensively all year,” said Head Coach Carl Rees. “It’s typical at this time of the year for teams to be very solid defensively. Combination and attacking play takes a bit more time. As long as we’re winning games, I’ll win 20 games 1-0. It’s standard fare at this point. We’ll go forward and get the results we need.”
The Stags – now 2-1-1 – are in action next on Friday, Sept. 19 as they head north to take on UMass Amherst (0-5-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.