The Gloucester boys soccer team learned something about itself on Saturday against Danvers.
Sure the Fishermen dropped a hard fought 2-0 game against the Falcons, their first loss of the year to drop to 3-1-2. But Gloucester gave the defending Northeastern Conference Champions, who qualified for the Division 2 North Semi Finals in 2011 and are favorites to win the conference again in 2012, a run for their money while drastically improving its play as the game wore on.
While they came up short, the Fishermen learned that they can compete with any team the deep NEC has to offer.
After a tough first half where the Falcons netted a pair of goals and put relentless offensive pressure on the Fishermen goal, Gloucester stepped up its game and battled the NEC champs to a stalemate in the second half. A half where the offensive scoring chances were around even.
"We feel encouraged by our second half, overall we played a good game against one of the top teams in the league," Gloucester assistant coach Ted Jones said. "We were clearly outplayed in the first half, but in the second half we played a much better, much more aggressive game. We gave Danvers much less space to operate."
The Falcons took a 1-0 lead just five minutes into place after a ball was deflected off of a Gloucester defender and into his own net after a scramble in front of the Fishermen goal.
Danvers kept up the pressure and got on the scoreboard again in the 30th minute when it converted a header off of a perfectly placed corner kick.
That's all Gloucester would allow as both teams had chances turned away in the second half. The Fishermen could not crack a tough Danvers defense and the game ended 2-0.
Jones praised the play of his two goalies in Saturday's defeat in Sr. captain Patrick Kelley and junior Josh Wilson. The two have been splitting time all season and the rotation has worked in the early going.
Wilson played the first half and although he allowed two goals, Jones said he made several key stops at a time where Danvers was dominating play, holding a 15-4 shot advantag, to keep the Fishermen within striking distance.
Kelley did not allow a goal in the second half which extends his scoreless streak to 260 minutes, which is the equivalent to 3 1/4 games played. Opponents are still waiting to score a goal on Kelley this season.
Defender Stephen Gross also shined for Gloucester despite the fact that he was given the most difficult task of any player on the field, shadowing Danvers striker Eric Martin, who is the best player in the NEC and scored his 100th point this week.
Gloucester will get another shot at Danvers on October 24 at Dr. Deering Stadium in Danvers, they also have a tough schedule coming up against the NEC Large.
"We play Saugus Wednesday and then we start playing teams (in the NEC Large)," Jones said. "There are no easy games on the schedule but we feel we can compete with anybody. We just have to come with our best game every day."