Late goal lifts Charlotte Independence over Wilmington Hammerheads

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Charlotte Independence moved closer to playoff contention following a 1-0 victory against Wilmington Hammerheads FC at Legion Stadium on Thursday night. The two clubs are scheduled to meet again in two days as the Hammerheads travel to Charlotte for their final road match of the season.

The victory puts Charlotte even with the Richmond Kickers in the Eastern Conference playoff race for the sixth and final postseason spot, with only a handful of regular season matches remaining as the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Harrisburg City Islanders trail by mere and attainable points.

The Wilmington Hammerheads were shutout on Thursday night. Photo courtesy- Wilmington Hammerheads FC
The Wilmington Hammerheads were shutout on Thursday night. Photo courtesy- Wilmington Hammerheads FC

Daniel Jackson was the first to create an opportunity for Charlotte as he generated a long cross over the penalty area, but lofted it too high and out of Independence’s reach. It was Hammerheads forward Aaron Wheeler who began to gain the attention of the 2,470 fans in attendance early in the first half after he almost caught the end of a header following a free kick by Corben Bone.

Charlotte goalkeeper John Berner was able to defend Wheeler by getting a partial touch on the ball, enough to deflect it just wide of the penalty area and out of immediate play. Wheeler followed with a shot minutes later that hit off the far right post and out of bounds.

Qudus Lawal looked to add a point on the board for the Hammerheads in the 57th minute after beating Bilal Duckett on Charlotte’s backline. Berner anticipated the play and came off his line to secure possession, but Lawal got ahead with another touch and was unlucky with his shot after not finding an appropriate angle on frame.

The lone goal of the night came in the 73rd minute following a diving header by Jackson from a Jorge Herrera corner kick.

The Hammerheads had a chance to equalize in the final minutes after being given three straight corner kicks, but no one could gain full control to earn the draw.