DARIEN -- For more than 38 minutes, Darien bent but didn't break in its Tuesday afternoon home tilt with Ridgefield.
Scoring opportunities were aplenty for both sides in the first half, but on Ridgefield's 15th and final shot of the first half, the Tigers finally broke through. Daniel Mines got control of a loose ball in front of the Darien net and buried his shot for the lead with 1:41 remaining before the break.
"We got the ball out wide and I saw the defense step up and move towards the ball, so I thought it'd get into the back post and that's exactly what happened. Tyler Welton played a great ball in, the ball bounced to my feet and I just finished it," Mines said.
While his Tigers managed to go into the break up a goal and eventually went on to a 2-0 victory -- their fourth in a row -- coach Phil Burgen was less than pleased with his team's first half performance.
"Our first touches were off and things weren't going our way, but that said, it's nice to get a win and we're going to be in these types of circumstances tomorrow, so we have to improve," Burgen said. "But we had good opportunities and the second half was a lot better than the first half. They're responsible kids, but we needed to read the game a little faster, and I think we did that in the second half."
Other first half highlights included several strong saves by Darien goalie Liam Rischmann, who denied eight shots before the break en route to 11 on the day.
Ridgefield goalie Nicholas Steer was also on point, earning a shutout by turning aside seven Blue Wave shots. With the game still scoreless midway through the first half, Steer made a highlight reel save to keep it that way. Darien's Henrik Stockinger took a free kick, sending an arching ball into a cluster of Darien players. Darien headed it in the direction of the right post, but Steer dove to keep it from crossing the line.
"The one mental lapse by us at the end of the first half was really the difference in the game. Their goalie made some good saves," Darien coach Jon Bradley said. "We had a game plan and most of their shots came from outside the box. I don't think they really broke us down -- maybe once or twice. The game plan we put together worked well. I thought we were unlucky in the first half. We had chances to score."
Rischmann got a helping hand -- or foot -- from teammate Vincent Puzio early in the second half. Ridgefield's Konstantinos Kouroupas made a quick move around the charging Darien goalie and sent his shot in the direction of the Blue Wave net, but Puzio, who had hustled back, caught up with the slow rolling ball, went into a slide and booted it wide of the net to keep the Darien deficit at 1-0.
Shooting from a tough angle, Darien's John Mackie had an opportunity to pull his team even with about five minutes remaining, but his low shot was denied by Steer.
With 46 seconds on the clock and Darien pressing for the equalizer, Ridgefield's Killian Clancy iced the game with a hard shot to the far post, just out of the reach of Rischmann, who may have gotten a fingertip on the ball while diving to his left.
As a result of Tuesday's loss, Darien, which won three of four games coming into the day, will need to win at least three of its final six games in order to reach the state tournament.
"Four of our remaining six games are with teams with losing records," Bradley said. "People look at our record and see 3-6-1, but I think we're going to pick up some more wins along the way. We've got to get three wins out of the last six in order to make the state tournament."
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Ridgefield 2, Darien 0
RIDGEFIELD 1 1--2
DARIEN 0 0--0
Records: Ridgefield 5-1-3, Darien 3-6-1. Goals: R--Daniel Mines, Killian Clancy. Assists: R--Tyler Welton. Goalies: R--Nicholas Steer (7 saves); D--Liam Rischmann (11). Shots: R--23; D--12.