MONMOUTH — Monmouth scored on a penalty kick to open the scoring Tuesday against Winthrop and closed it with a Ramblers own goal. In between, Nate Ashton orchestrated 80 percent of the goals in the Mustangs’ 7-2 boys’ soccer win.

Coming back from a broken leg a year ago, Ashton has been finding his stride in the Monmouth offense.

“He’s one of the more talented players in the league,” Monmouth head coach Joe Fletcher said. “He is starting to feel good about himself… He’s starting to come into his own, so I hope he is OK because he is a vital part of what we are trying to do.”

A collision near the end of the match knocked Ashton down and took him out of the game. Ashton said he would be good to go when Monmouth takes on Class C South’s top-ranked team, Hall-Dale, on Thursday.

Monmouth got on the board early Tuesday when Gabe Martin converted a penalty kick after Winthrop fouled Hayden Fletcher in the penalty box.

From there on, Ashton tallied an assist on the next four goals.

“We changed our formation to a four-four-two, and I think that really helped us,” Ashton said. “We used to play with one striker, and now we have two, and we have more chances to score now, which really helps our game. We have higher scoring games now.”

Five minutes after the penalty kick, Ashton sprinted down the left side into the Winthrop zone, made a step-over move to glide by a defender and crossed it to the waiting right foot of Mikey Dolan, who slid to finish and make it 2-0.

Ten minutes later, Monmouth was on the attack again after fighting off the physical play of the Ramblers. Ashton crossed the ball into the box again, this time to Fletcher, who tipped the ball into the left side of the goal to increase the Mustangs’ lead to three.

“They’re an up-and-coming team and they’ve improved a lot,” Joe Fletcher said of Winthrop. “I think our skill set up top caught them off guard a little bit and got them on their heels. We play somewhat contrasting styles, we play a little more controlled pace than they do, but the score was closer than it looked.”

Monmouth controlled the possession for most of the game. However, after the third goal Winthrop started to attack more effectively. The Ramblers put up multiple shots on Monmouth goalkeeper Brock Bates and finally got one to go through with about 11 minutes remaining. Alex De La Cruz lobbed a ball to Rowan Goebel-Bain, who scored off the bar to cut into the Monmouth lead.

Monmouth sent another ball into the back of the net before halftime, when Ashton crossed the ball into the box for Thomas Neal for the first of his two goals.

Fletcher scored again just three minutes into the second half. Winthrop answered with a goal from Jared McLaughlin, who was a workhorse all game for the Ramblers.

Overall, Winthrop couldn’t overcome its mistakes.

“We just didn’t communicate as well as we should have,” Winthrop head coach Jon Baehr said. “Success is part of communication and working as a team. Skills are skills and we aren’t as skilled as they are but we will get there.”

Monmouth’s seven-goal outburst is an injection of much-needed confidence ahead of its battle with Hall-Dale on Thursday. The Bulldogs defeated the Mustangs 3-0 last month.

“I think our team is a lot better now, and I think our team has grown a lot,” Ashton said. “They’re playing at our home field so we will have the advantage.”

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