RailHawks still unbeaten at home with 4-1 win over Strikers

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Peter Koutroumpis – editor@trianglesportsnet.com

CARY, N.C. – The Carolina RailHawks extended their unbeaten streak at home with a 4-1 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers during the NASL’s ‘Match of the Week’ played at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday.

Midfielder Enzo Martinez and forward Zach Schilawski each netted a pair of goals to give Carolina’s home-opening crowd of 4,007 in attendance reason to cheer throughout the game, despite the cool weather following a day of rain.

“It was great to be back in front of the home crowd,” RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke said.

“The crowd is a major reason why we haven’t lost in 17 straight matches. The team played well and we were sharp in the attacking third. Zack Schilawski played at another level tonight.”

Both players tucked the ball past Strikers goalkeeper Oka Nikolov during each half of play as the RailHawks put six of their total 12 shots on target to end up with an impressive finishing percentage.

Leading 2-0 at halftime following Martinez’s successful penalty kick (27’) and Schilaswki’s tally in the 40th minute, the RailHawks defense couldn’t deny former Carolina midfielder Chris Nurse the opportunity to beat keeper Akira Fitzgerald to narrow the score to 2-1 in the 47th minute.

However, Fitzgerald didn’t allow any more balls to get by him, making key saves to finish with four stops while earning Carolina’s first win of the season.

“It was a great result for us – it was exactly what we wanted,” Martinez said.

“The most important thing was to get three (points) today. The fight that these guys showed, the attitude, was unbelievable.”

Attempting to change the game’s momentum to their favor, the Strikers offense pressed throughout the remaining 40 minutes of play, but the RailHawks used the strong defensive play of its back line in Kupono Low, Daniel Scott, Connor Tobin, and Jordan Burt to contain and move the ball forward.

From there, Martinez and Schilawski, with the help of midfielders Cesar Elizondo and Ty Shipalane who earned assists on the team’s second and fourth goals, took care of sealing the victory for the RailHawks.

“On Monday when we look at it, we’re not going to be very happy that we gave up that second goal,” Schilawski said.

“The silver lining is really good response after that. We stayed with it – we didn’t let it hurt us. They get that goal and the momentum shifts and now we’re in trouble. But really good response from us to kind of circle the wagons to relax and calm down, find our midfielders and start connecting passes again.”

After earning a draw in the season-opener in Indianapolis last week, Clarke’s goal of seeing his team’s consistency develop further came to fruition.

“We know we’re going to be better next week, and better the week after,” Clarke said.

“Just keep looking to improve. The great thing about these players is that they work hard for each other and they want it.”

The win put Carolina (1W-1T-0L – 4 pts) in third place while sitting with Minnesota United atop the league in total goals scored (5) thanks to current NASL scoring leaders Schilawski (3 g) and Martinez (2 g).