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COLTS NECK - For the first 10 games of the season, Colts Neck coach Art Collier and his team were content to keep teams out of the goal and hope to stay close with every team on the schedule.

With a team that returned only two starters from a year ago and starts only five seniors, the Cougars played well enough over those first 10 games that Collier is ready to turn his players loose and see if they have what it takes to beat some of the best teams in the Shore Conference.

Senior Rob Berdel converted a penalty kick in the 55th minute and forced an own goal seven minutes later to help the Cougars - No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - beat Neptune, 2-0. The win marked the first game Colts Neck has played in this year that was decided by more than one goal.

"With such an inexperienced team, my hope was to just figure out a way to stay close in these games and hopefully win enough to get to play in the postseason," Collier said. "We've shown we can win games and hang around with the best teams in our schedule, so the next step is to figure out how to beat them and that's what we're turning our attention to."

The Cougars have primarily played a 4-3-3 formation this season, but switched to a 4-4-1-1 Thursday as they attempt to become a more dangerous team for the postseason. Thursday also marked the second game in which Colts Neck has scored more than one goal.

"Our defense has been solid all year and lately, we've really put our focus on trying to execute in the attacking third," Berdel said. "We were more attack-minded today and the encouraging thing is we were still able to play a good defensive game."

"You see a lot of teams in the Shore now playing with five midfielders and we're trying to find a formation that can deal with that," Collier said. "The good thing is these kids are capable of playing a lot of formations, so the formation we played to start the season is different from the one we play later in the season."

Colts Neck was locked into another tight game on the scoreboard during the middle of the second half until senior Dean Raynor drew a foul at the edge of the 18-yard box to earn a penalty kick 54:01 into the game. Berdel served a kick to the right side of the goal, a change in direction from the last time he took a penalty kick against Neptune in a 1-0 Colts Neck win on Sept. 18.

"I knew I was going to go in the other direction and whan I saw (goalkeeper Irving Rodriguez) start to lean, I knew I had it," Berdel said.

The Cougars took their first two-goal lead of the season 61:01 into the game on an own goal. Berdel headed a corner kick by Rayor from the far right post toward the goal mouth, where a Neptune defender redirected the ball into the goal.

Thursday's win clinches Colts Neck a spot in both the Shore Conference Tournament and NJSIAA Tournament. The Cougars will spend the next four games looking to improve its stock by proving they can beat the likes of Ocean, Red Bank and Long Branch (twice).


Box Score

Colts Neck 2, Neptune 0

1 2 F
Neptune (7-7, 3-6) 1 0 1
Colts Neck (7-3-1, 6-3-0) 0 0 0

Goals (Assists): (CN) Berdel (PK) 55’, own goal 62’
Shots: Colts Neck, 10-6
Saves: (N) Irving Rodriguez 3; (CN) Tice Smit 3