LATHROP – With each minute of Valley Oak League soccer meaning more and more for the playoff hopeful clubs, Lathrop and Manteca put on a quality showing in a 1-1 stalemate Thursday at the Spartans’ Bennie Gatto Field.
Manteca got on the board late in the first half, turning a scoreless battle into a 1-0 Manteca lead in the 35th minute. Manteca’s Manuel Nuno hauled in a rebound from about 20 yards out, gathered and let a ferocious shot that seemed to instantly find the back of the net.
The goal appeared to be the spark that would ignite the Buffaloes offense. A shorthanded Lathrop squad was not expected to hang so closely with one of the VOL’s premiere clubs, but the Spartans’ all-out effort was contagious.
Even though the Spartans were only able to pull off another league tie, the fact that they sent the once-beaten Buffaloes home without a win held the most significance.
“That was a letdown,” Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg said. “It’s a letdown because the first time we played them I thought it was more of an even game. This time we had 20 legitimate scoring opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on.
“When you don’t capitalize and you let a team hang around, that’s what happens when you don’t take care of business.”
Lathrop saw its fate change in the 70th minute when the Buffaloes committed a foul in the box and Lathrop’s Gilberto Duran cashed in with an impressive shot towards the bottom of the left post. The Spartans had to just labor through the final 10 minutes of playing time with their dilapidated lineup, and that proved to be the easiest of Lathrop’s challenges.
“We don’t really need another tie,” Lathrop head coach Lenny Lial said. “The last thing we need is another tie, we need wins, especially at home. But given the injuries we’ve had, we have very few players who are working at full strength.
“We have guys who at the beginning of the season they were barely playing, now their playing huge minutes and they’re not hurting us, they’re actually making a positive impact.”