Frustration within the Neosho County Panthers men’s soccer team is palpable.
The Panthers 3-0 loss at home to the Kansas City Kansas Blue Devils on Wednesday night dropped Neosho County’s record to 3-4-4 on the year and 1-4-2 in conference play.
This defeat was just the latest chapter in the Panthers’ arduous journey to find consistent goal-scorers.
With this shutout, Neosho County has notched one multi-goal performance from its offense — a 5-4 shootout win against Johnson on Sept. 22 — in its last nine matches.
“It just seems to be a recurring theme where we play well, we dominate the game, we do all the things we’ve worked on in training, but we just can’t put the ball in the back of the goal,” Neosho County head coach Elliot Chadderton said.
“That’s the simple fact of what’s happening with the team right now.”
The most difficult aspect of the Panthers offense, for Chadderton and his players, to wrestle with is the struggle to reach their potential.
This is a group that banged in 10 goals in the first four matches of the season.
Factor in a missed penalty kick and a handful of other close chances in the win over Johnson and the Panthers could have netted over half a dozen goals in that match.
“When we concede goals, it feels like the team gets deflated pretty quickly instead of trusting that we have the quality players to bring a goal back,” Chadderton said. “We just lack that little bit of belief that we can score right now.”
That sense of deflation struck the Panthers about 11 minutes into the second half of last night’s match when Dimitry Tchantcheu collected the ball at his feet off a set piece right in front of Neosho County’s goal and slotted the ball in.
Any slivers of morale the Panthers were holding on to at that point evaporated when the Blue Devils doubled their lead with a close-range score off a header less than seven minutes later.
Despite how the Neosho County players felt, the match was never truly out of reach until the final minutes. From goals ruled offsides, failed one-on-ones with the goalkeeper to shots inches wide of the posts, the Panthers consistently kept themselves just short of opening the floodgates with their strikers.
They just, as Chadderton says, couldn’t find that first bit of luck.
“It’s not like we’re a bad team that’s playing bad,” Chadderton said. “It’s just that final touch.”
The Panthers will look to break out of their scoring drought when they host the Dodge City Conquistadors (4-4, 3-3 KJCCC) for Sophomore Day on Saturday.
“We absolutely have to bounce back, win and be successful,” Chadderton said. “We have to do all the things we know we can do to get a result for the sophomores to have an enjoyable day.”