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Nashville SC Delivers in the Clutch Once Again to Bag Crucial Win over Birmingham Legion FC

September 18, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - Nashville SC News Release

NASHVILLE - It was déjà vu all over again on Tuesday night for Nashville SC.

Just a few weeks removed from Bolu Akinyode's late winning goal over the Charleston Battery at First Tennessee Park, Nashville SC found more magic at the death as a Jimmy Ockford deflected shot found its way into the back of the net in stoppage time, earning a big 1-0 win over Birmingham Legion FC.

It was a hard-fought win that pushes the club's quest for a top four finish in the standings even further along.

"Let me tell you, it does nothing for my stress levels, the inner anguish that you feel on the touch line," Head Coach Gary Smith said of the winning goal. "The delight and the sheer exhilaration of scoring that late knowing that you've pretty much won the game is amazing. But I had 90 minutes of tension and turmoil sitting on that bench. We've got five games at home here. We want to keep the pressure on the top groups. We still feel that there's an outside chance of the Eastern Conference title. To keep in that race, you've got to win. We have to keep the pressure on. It's not in our hands now, but if we don't keep the pressure on, then the teams above us go in to their games knowing that the world's a much more comfortable environment to work in."

Most of Tuesday night's clash was a true grudge match as neither side could find any high-quality scoring chances. Birmingham looked threatening at times, but managed just one shot on target in the first half. With the score at 0-0 at halftime, the Boys in Gold knew they had to push forward in the second half to find a winner.

And push they did, putting up nine shots to Birmingham's four in the final 45 minutes. They scored on the last shot they took in the third minute of stoppage time.

"They've gotten a lot better since the last time we played them," Goalkeeper Matt Pickens said. "I think the last time we played them, they had a few injuries. They got a couple of guys back. They're more athletic; they have a little bit of a bite to them which is hard to deal with building out and getting pressure going forward. I just think that we did start the game well, and they started out the second half a lot better. When they go into half with it 0-0, they're thinking they need a goal, we've got 45 minutes left in this game, so they're still in it. Mentally, we knew there was going to be a little push from them. They just played Friday night, so we knew there was going to be a little bit of die off towards the end. That's typical of teams who only have a couple of days rest. Credit to the boys who recognized that and pushed on a little bit more to get three points."

With the victory, Nashville SC moves into third place in the Eastern Conference pending the results of Wednesday's matches. It also sets up a crucial match against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night, as the result of that match could determine who has the upper hand in the race for a top four spot.

With some fresh players potentially returning to the lineup this weekend, Smith is looking forward to carrying the momentum from this win into a pivotal clash with Pittsburgh.

"We'll have some players coming back at the weekend," Smith said. "Daniel [Ríos] had 20 minutes tonight, which is a nice step forward. I would hope that Lebo [Moloto] and Derrick [Jones] are a step closer. Slowly but surely, I think we'll start to piece together a group that looks like a championship-winning team. Now, is that an Eastern Conference-winning team? Maybe. But I certainly want to be in as good a position as I can be to have a very decent run in the postseason. The Pittsburgh team we've got coming in has always been extremely difficult to play against under Bob Lilley. They're doing a terrific job, they're in a great spot. But what we know is that if we can take care of them, however that comes about, then we do ourselves another massive favor in the step towards a conference title possibly and a top four spot."

Tickets are available for Saturday's match, presented by AMI, are available for as low as $11. Click here for more information on the ticket deal, as well as other fan-friendly deals at First Tennessee Park.

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