A Tale of Two ‘Keepers

by Harry Besett

HARDWICK – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of howlers, it was the age of safe hands. No. 5 Hardwick FC traveled to Williamstown on Sunday to face No. 1 Salt Hill Pub of West Lebanon, N.H., in the final regular season game of the 2022 Central Vermont Men’s League.

Both teams started out vocal and aggressive, staying organized defensively and playing good passes through the middle of the pitch. The physical tug of war would see Salt Hill get the first decent chance with a hard low shot to the bottom left corner. The quality shot was matched by Hardwick’s goalkeeper, Brett Roy, who dove to make his first fingertip save of the match to keep the score level.

Hardwick fought back into Salt Hill’s end minutes later but ended up turning the ball over. As Hardwick pressed aggressively to win the ball back in the final third the Salt Hill goalie would make his first of several mistakes. While attempting to clear the ball from a routine back pass from a defender the ball would hop up slightly to skip over his swinging foot. Under pressure from a Hardwick striker he was unable to scramble back to stop the ball going over the line and into the back of the net.

Ten minutes later Hardwick’s attack crossed the ball into the box in the air but missed Kevin Doyon who was crashing in to get on the end of it. The miss seemed to catch the Salt Hill ‘keeper off guard and the cross would again drift past him to put Hardwick ahead 2-0.

Salt Hill fought back aggressively and started taking more shots from outside of the 18-yard box. This gave Hardwick’s goalkeeper the chance to show off his athleticism and ability between the uprights, highlighted by a backwards diving save to tip the ball just over the crossbar behind him and keep Salt Hill scoreless at halftime.

The same story would continue in the second half. Hardwick’s attack would be rewarded when they earned a penalty kick after Joe Yando was clumsily knocked to the ground inside the box. At 3-0 down Salt Hill continued to try to scrape a goal back to stay in the match but the highlight reel performance from Brett Roy continued as he would make several more diving saves and multiple instinctual saves from shots inside the box.

Salt Hill would finally shoot a ball on target to beat Roy off a corner but the shutout was kept alive when midfielder Harry Besett was covering the back post to clear the ball off the line. As the sun beat down on both teams the wind was finally knocked out of Salt Hill’s sails when Walker McAllister rushed onto a lazy back pass to the opposition’s goalie. They both arrived at the ball at the same time and made a strong, clean tackle which would send them both to the ground. Walker was first to his feet and stayed composed to get to the ball first and roll it into the empty net.

The game continued as a formality for everyone except Hardwick’s goalkeeper who continued to make sure he earned his well-deserved clean sheet after a man-of-the-match performance. He will be deservedly full of confidence when he returns to NVU in Lyndon to start preseason in mid August.

Hardwick FC are waiting on results from Chelsea and hoping that their best team performance of the season is rewarded with pipping them to the No. 4 spot and a home playoff game.

Hardwick FC finish the season 7-2-1 and will be hoping to better their semifinal run from last year when the post season starts next Sunday. It was a far, far better game that they played, than they have ever played; it is a far, far better chance that they go with than they have ever known.