Central blanks Bishop Guertin, 4-0, showdown with Hanover looms

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MANCHESTER, NH — How could is the Central High boys soccer team? How good is it capable of being? How far can the Little Green expect to go in the Division I State Tournament?

With just three games remaining in the regular season, there are still more questions than answers regarding the 2023 Central squad.

Tuesday night, at Gill Stadium, the Little Green took care of business against Bishop Guertin, 4-0. Senior Captain Martin Lubunga scored a pair of goals and assisted on a third, as Central won for the fourth time in six matches to improve to 9-4-0.

This recent stretch has been a microcosm of the Central season. Wins have come against BG (2-10-2), Merrimack (3-10-0), Memorial (4-6-3) and Concord (3-9-0), while losses have come against Windham (11-2-0) and Pinkerton (11-3-0). For the year, the Little Green are just 2-4-0 against teams with a winning record.

For Head Coach Maid Ahmic, the problem is clear — a lack of consistency.

“We have spells where it’s 10 minutes, 5 minutes, where it’s good and then there’s times when (we lose focus),” said Ahmic. He cited multiple occasions when his backs dribbled the ball too long before making a pass, leading to turnovers deep in the defensive zone. Bishop Guertin was unable to take advantage of those scoring chances but the Little Green won’t get so lucky against top-level competition.”We made mistakes like that against Bedford and we paid a huge price. If you make mistakes like that in the playoffs, you’re going to get burned 10 out of 10 times. One bad minute can mean you lose, 1-0, and you’re out of the tournament,” said Ahmic.

Central will need to bring its best soccer when it visits top-ranked Hanover (11-1-0), Thursday afternoon. The Little Green will then close out the regular season against Timberlane (0-12-1) and Nashua North (7-6-0). Ahmic feels his club has been tracking in the right direction and hopes to get some positive momentum heading into the tournament.

“We’ve made some huge improvements. I thought Windham (2-1 loss) was a solid game. Pinkerton (2-0 loss), I thought we didn’t take (advantage of) our chances,” he said, “We’re improving a lot, we’re just not getting the results that we want. I think every game we’ve been growing. Last week, against Merrimack (3-0 win), I thought we played a pretty good game, without mistakes.”

Against Bishop Guertin, the Central midfielders dominated, led by the play of Lubunga and fellow senior Martino Cueto. In fact, the duo teamed up to put the Little Green on top, 1-0, in the 7th minute. Cueto took a nice feed from Lubunga, used some nifty footwork to get a clean loo and ripped a shot past Cardinals’ keeper James Algeo.

Algeo, just a freshman, played an excellent game for Bishop Guertin, finishing with 9 saves, including diving stops on Landon Vasquez in the first half and Lubunga in the second half.

Leading just 1-0, Central got sloppy on the defensive end, leading to turnovers and two golden scoring chances for Bishop Guertin. In the 13th minute, Cardinals forward Colin Mills chipped a shot that went over the head of Central keeper Sam O’Toole and bounced toward the net. O’Toole (5 saves) raced back and snagged the ball just prior to it breaking the plane of the goal line, though Mills and BG Coach Tyler Van Deventer pleaded with the referees that it had crossed the line.

Later in the half, BG forward Rayaan Hameed stole the ball off the foot of Central back Exauce Ntikala and blasted a shot that went harmlessly into the side of the net.

Having twice dodged a bullet, Central extended its lead in the 32nd minute. This time it was Lubunga with a sensational individual effort, leading to a low rocket past a diving Algeo and a 2-0 advantage.

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Central put the game away in the second half, dominating the first 20 minutes. Vasquez had a near miss in the 43rd minute, clanging his shot off the crossbar. Lubunga didn’t miss on his bid, putting the Little Green up, 3-0, in the 46th minute. The goal came off a Central corner. Bishop Guertin’s Trent Cormier tried heading the ball out and away from the net but Lubunga was there waiting at the edge of the box and ripped a one-timer into the far corner.

Central midfielder Jean Amisi Aya Wa Mawenda capped the scoring in the 62nd minute with a blas from 20 yards out.

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About this Author

Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.