BAXTER - After the Brainerd Warriors dropped their season opener 3-2 in overtime to the Alexandria Cardinals they had circled Tuesday as the day to atone for that defeat.
In the rematch at Southdale Field the Warriors trailed 1-0 at halftime before second-half goals by Chris Nathan and Joe Nelson gave Brainerd a 2-1 victory and the undisputed lead in the Central Lakes Conference race.
Brainerd has 10 points with three conference games remaining. Alexandria has nine points with four CLC games left.
"It's a big, big win," Warriors coach Cahil Collins said. "It kind of comes down to games. Alexandria has a few more games left in the conference. We have three more games and we can get a possible 13 points. They have four more games so they could score one more point than we do if they win (all of them).
Warriors 2, Alexandria 1
The key: Joe Nelson's goal at 50:17 gave Brainerd the win.
Conference: Brd 6-2-1, Alx 7-2-0
Overall: Brd 7-3-1, Alx 7-5-1
Next: Sauk Rapids vs. Brainerd at Baxter 5 p.m. Thursday.
"They've got a tough schedule ahead of them. They've got some very fine teams they're playing, so (the conference title is) kind of up in the air."
Tuesday's outcome was up in the air until Nelson buried the game-winner at the 50:17 mark. Alexandria keeper Brett Maloney wandered out of the goal box to meet Nelson, who took a pass from Ethan Nichols and kicked it over Maloney.
"I was standing way up top, I thought I was offside actually," Nelson said. "Ethan gave me a beautiful ball, he dropped it right in front of me. It was a little bouncy but it was perfect. It was a lucky shot to be honest.
"It was a toe bash, right over him."
Nathan's penalty kick into the right corner at 42:01 had tied the game 1-1.
Alexandria's Joe Wymore scored the only goal of the first half at 12:46 on a corner kick.
"Our keeper (Matt Sather) called for it," Collins said. "He went to catch it, and it went right through his hands. Honestly, that's the first time Matt Sather has made a mistake all year long. It's bound to happen, we're all human. He's been stellar in goal. He's saved the game for us several times this year, in different games."
Had Sather stopped the shot he would have recorded his fourth straight shutout.
"It would have been another one," Collins said, "but it was an own-goal, keeper-error kind of thing."
Nelson said the win will give the Warriors a boost the rest of the season.
Alexandria's Sam Olson and Brainerd's Joe Nelson (3) went after the ball during Tuesday's game. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It's something that we're going to look forward to in our next games," he said. "We can come back to this and know that we put it in the bag."
Alexandria 1 0 - 1
Brainerd 0 2 - 2
First half: Alx-Joe Wymore, 12:46
Second half: Brd-Chris Nathan, penalty kick, 42:01; Brd-Joe Nelson (Ethan Nichols) 50:17
Shots on goal: Alx 4-2-6, Brd 4-4--8
Goalkeepers: Alx, Brett Maloney (6 saves); Brd-Matt Sather (5 saves)
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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