NLCL 2022: Mama’s Gasparillo best Watson’s Cox FA to top Group B as Moruga lose 3 straight

Thirteen years on from a vehicular accident that changed the course of her life and her footballing career, former Trinidad and Tobago Senior Women’s footballer Tamar Watson is trying to make a difference from the technical area

The 34-year-old Watson would have had many battles on and off the field. Yesterday at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, though, her task was to try and get the Palo Seco-based Cox Football Academy past table-toppers Gasparillo Youths in Group B action of the Next Level Consultant Ltd (NLCL) Under-19 Community Cup.

Photo: Cox FA midfielder Mordecai Brown (left) tries to protect the ball against Gasparillo Youths winger Justin Walcott during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

The single point separating the teams before kick-off made for a keen contest that ended with a narrow 1-0 win. And it was a 64th minute effort by Darion Mohan that settled the game, earning all three points for Gasparillo.

With three matches left in round two, Gasparillo (14 pts) see their lead atop Group B swelling to three points as previous group leaders Moruga FC (10 pts) were handed a third straight loss. In the earlier match of the double-header, they went under 1-2 to a sharp Cunupia FC (11 points) outfit.

Watson lamented that poor finishing has been her team’s Achilles heel all season. And, with chances few and far between against Gasparillo, they would rue their indecisive play.

“The loss today was tough and, yes, I’m very disappointed for the entire Cox Academy,” said Watson, who started her own coaching academy before eventually joining Dennis Cox and his team at the Palo Seco-based academy. “I think it was nobody’s fault but ours.

Photo: Cox FA head coach Tamar Watson (centre) passes on instructions from the sidelines during NLCL U-19 action against Gasparillo Youths at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

“We have been having problems with finishing so I think that kinda got the better of us this game, so hopefully we could start finishing and move together positively.”

Despite the tight win that put her side at the top of the group, Watson’s opposite number Jasandra Joseph wasn’t the happiest of campers either. In her debut season as coach of the Gasparillo outfit, Joseph indicated that it’s one of the worst performances she has seen from the table-topping team.

Because her mother, Sandra Pompey, is on the NLCL Committee, the former Pleasantville Secondary standout has assumed the Gasparillo Youths coaching responsibilities this season. And as ‘Mama’, as she is affectionately called, exited the dressing room for an interview with Wired868, she seemed like the type whose quiet and calm demeanour you wouldn’t want to take for weakness. In fact, she looked like she had just dished out a scolding to some mischievous youths.

Gone are the days when Mama and Alexcia Ali were dominating for Pleasantville and ripping teams to shreds in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL). Now, the 23 year-old is all about business and getting her Gasparillo team to the promised land in the NLCL tournament, having reached the quarterfinal stage in a previous edition.

Photo: Gasparillo Youths attacker Darion Mohan (left) tries to keep the ball from Cox FA midfielder Tereek Abraham during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

“The last time we played in the [NLCL Community Cup] we came and lost the wrong game, which was the 12th game, when we were on an 11-game winning run,” Mama said, mindful of yesterday’s potential for untimely slippage on a banana skin. “For the first half, I was very disappointed but I spoke to them and we tried to find a solution to come back and win the game.

“We did [win] but I still wasn’t pleased to the full capacity because I know they could give more.”

While Watson crouched near the edge of her technical area and barked out occasional instructions to her charges, Mama calmly paced up and down in her technical area during the tense match. The styles different, the main goal remained clear; three points and earning the Group B top spot.

In the first half, Cox FA had more than one sniff at Raheem Lee’s goal, Tereek Abraham unable to hit the target with a pair of presentable chances inside the first 15 minutes. Mere minutes later, Lee made a brilliant save, flinging himself spectacularly across his six-yard box to stop a wicked shot from the left flank.

Photo: Gasparillo Youths goalkeeper Raheem Lee clears the ball during NLCL U-19 action against Cox FA at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

And between the two incidents, if Tyrique Ramjit had sorted out his feet in time to tap home a precise cut-back from left flanker Mordecai Brown, Lee would have been a mere bystander.

As the game wore on, though, real chances grew increasingly scarce and Lee and his central defender Ephraim Brown seemed to grow in confidence. Full of poise, the goalie plucked lofted passes and crosses out of the air, leading veteran sportscaster Ruskin Mark to comment at one point that: “It’s definitely going to take something special to beat Lee today.”

In front of him, Lee had the perfect anchor for his defensive unit. Brown (E) read the game well, was sharp in the tackle and was not afraid to venture further afield to snuff out attacks even before they got to Lee’s doorstep.

When, on the hour mark, Brown (E) left his central defensive station unattended, Cox FA’s Terrell Abraham managed to get a weak effort through on goal after being played in from deep.

Photo: Cox FA midfielder Terrell Abraham (right) fires a shot past Gasparillo Youths midfielder Tydrel Granger during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Switched from the flank to left-back by Mama at the start of the second half, Mohan would show Abraham how to finish.

“He is mainly my wing-back but he gives me some attacking performances on top as well,” Mama explained. “I felt as though he needed to come back and settle himself and he’d give a better performance. That was the first switch I made and it changed the game.”

In the 64th minute, Mohan found himself in acres of space on the left side of the area after the Cox FA defence failed to deal with a harmless-looking right side free kick. Composing himself like the number 9 on his back suggested, Mohan neatly tucked a right-footer past Kenzel Adams to give Gasparillo the lead.

Thereafter, trying to alter the course of the game, Watson rang in the changes, even substituting goalkeeper Adams in the 75th minute. But her six changes didn’t quite have the desired effect as Cox FA never quite got their rhythm back. Their last real chance came in the 85th minute when, after some silky skill by a teammate on the left flank, the lively Darrel Garcia was unable to keep his effort down.

Photo: Cox FA midfielder Maliki Clement (right) tries to escape from Gasparillo Youths flanker Justin Walcott during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Watson gave the NLCL high marks, noting that it was important to get the youngsters back to competing after the Covid-19 pandemic. She also tried to explain that winning was not at the top of the Cox FA agenda.

“It’s always a thing to get everyone involved and it’s definitely a thing with coach Dennis Cox himself, our Technical Director,” she told Wired868. “We try to give everybody a play. We don’t want to have players coming out to train and just because they aren’t yet on par with the other players, we won’t give them a play.

“[…] We definitely tried to put in players to go for the win but we’d definitely like to see players go out there and showcase their talents as well. We love results but the main goal of any academy’—definitely Cox Academy—is to develop the players.”

Mama, nothing if not competitive, is bidding to take Gasparillo to the next level and to make her mother proud.

Photo: Gasparillo Youths players Justin Walcott (left) and Sembi Hart-Smith contest an aerial ball while Cox FA forward Tyrique Ramjit (right, partially hidden) is moved out of their way during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

“I’m putting my heart in and sacrificing certain stuff that people don’t even know,” she told Wired868. “Due to the circumstances of my mom not being able to be on the bench with them, I have to pick up the mantle and go out there. (…) I have to take up the mantle and make it work, which is a frightening thing because I was never in a position like this before.”

If it is true that the hallmark of a good team is to win even if by playing ugly, the 23-year-old can say that she has ticked that box this season.

In their previous game, Gasparillo got a 2-1 win over Moruga at the Mahaica Oval, a huge result in the context of the group.

Moruga appears to have now lost the winning touch which propelled them to the top of Group B, three losses in the course of a week having seen them slip to third. There was a touch of irony in the lone item they notched in the defeat.

Photo: Cunupia FC goalkeeper Zeronn Collymore retrieves the ball from the back of his net during NLCL U-19 action against Moruga FC at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Defender Anthony Williams put Moruga ahead in the 19th minute with a free kick from just past the halfway line. It swerved in the strong wind and lobbed Cunupia goalkeeper Zeronn Collymore, leaving coach Randolph Boyce was far from pleased with the effort.

Moruga coach Smith left his own first-call custodian Antonio Bartholomew on the bench yesterday after he had had a horrid time with aerial balls against Point Fortin just a week ago. His replacement, Jaden Turner, delivered a fine performance between the sticks.

Turner’s defence left him exposed one too many times in Couva yesterday, though, and Cunupia wide man Winston Johnson Guerra proved to be his kryptonite. For the Cunupia faithful, though, it must have been frustrating watching Guerra on the day as, often in acres of space, he would needlessly turn the ball over by carelessly letting it drift out of play.

His best moments came, though, in the penalty area. First, in the 56th minute, Guerra smartly finished off from close range after Cunupia caught the Moruga defence napping with a quick free kick.

Photo: Cunupia FC attacker Winston Johnson Guerra celebrates his goal against Moruga FC during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Then, in the 83rd minute,  Guerra showed poise in the area, once again beating Turner from close range after skillful first-half sub Jordan Lara played him through on goal.

Many of Boyce’s players swarmed around him after the game to congratulate him on what was a massive result for their team.

Fourth at the start of the day’s play, Cunupia leapfrogged both Cox FA and Moruga to sit in second place in this increasingly exciting Group B.

Just four points now separate first-placed Gasparillo from fourth-placed Cox FA so it’s safe to say that the competitive juices are overflowing in this competition. And with the top three teams advancing from Group B, there is all to play for in the NLCL Community Cup.

It’s likely to go right down to the wire.

Photo: Cunupia FC forward Nicholas Bobcombe (right) is bowled over by Moruga FC defender Dwight Douglas during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)


Gasparillo Youths (4-2-3-1): 36.Raheem Lee (GK); 15.Gyasi Pinder, 14.Ephraim Brown, 4.Aaron Oudit, 19.Jaheim Abraham (11.Jaheim Alexander 78); 6.Kal-el Award (captain), 8.Tydrel Granger; 9.Darion Mohan, 13.Josiah Scott, 12.Justin Walcott (18.Carlyle Thomas 68); 17.Sembi Hart-Smith (7.Tyreke Lange).

Unused substitutes: 1.Hakeem Lange (GK), 2.Jeremiah Sammy, 3.Mikhail Marryshow, 10.Keron Burnett.

Coach: Jasandra Joseph

Cox Football Academy (4-4-2): 1.Kenzel Adams (GK) (31.Mickelle Alphonso (GK) 75); 13.Joshua Kanhai, 5.Yohan Romano, 18.Shiheem Taylor (captain), 4.Adam Pierre; 15.Tereek Abraham (17.Aaron Alves 69), 10.Terrell Abraham (8.Keeghan Simmons 69), 6.Maliki Clement (21.Darion Hernandez 84), 3.Mordecai Brown; 7.Tyrique Ramjit (12.Kevin Seales 75), 24.Darrel Garcia (9.Vaughn Clement 88).

Unused substitutes: 11.Josiah Simmons, 14.Jeremy Carter, 16.Tejohn Fortune, 19.Warren McDonald.

Coach: Tamar Watson

Photo: Cox FA midfielder Mordecai Brown (top) tries to dribble around the diving Justin Walcott of Gasparillo Youths during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Cunupia FC (4-1-4-1): 1.Zeronn Collymore (GK); 6.Lyshaun Morris, 4.Keanu Morean, 3.Nesean Alexander (captain), 2.Joshua Phillip; 16.Elijah Atherton (23.Justin Joseph 68); 17.Ezra Williams (22.Jeremiah Joseph 84), 12.Josiah Ochoa (8.Jordan Lara 29), 30.Rayshawn Crichlow (10,Denilson Dogan 74), 18.Winston Johnson Guerra; 7.Nicolas Bobcombe (25.Darren Griffith 90+2).

Unused substitutes: 28.Ja-ir Buckmire (GK), 9.Camron Burke.

Coach: Randolph Boyce

Moruga FC (5-3-2): 1.Jaden Turner (GK); 6.Tyrel Pemberton, 4.Kaylon Ayres, 3.Dwight Douglas, 31.Jazeem Sambury (17.Jerimiah John 50), 12.Anthony Williams; 10.Tyrique Lucas (captain) (14.Russell Lynch 68), 8.Jeremiah Ottway, 29.Damon La-Fortune (25.Renny Nicholas 68); 23.Sanchez Lee (9.Joshua Kesney 56), 7.Matthew-Lee Cummings (11.Terrell Haynes 82).

Unused substitutes: 21.Antonio Bartholomew (GK), 15.Santana Smith, 19.Nkosi Gibbs, 33.Marckus Arrindell.

Coach: Andy Smith

Referee: Jomo Johnson

Photo: Cunupia FC attacker Winston Johnson Guerra (left)stands firm against marauding Moruga FC defender Kaylon Ayres during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

NLCL U-19 Community Cup results

(Sunday 15 May)

Gasparillo Youths 1 (Darion Mohan 64), Cox Football Academy 0, Group B, Ato Boldon Stadium;

Cunupia FC 2 (Winston Johnson Guerra 56, 83), Moruga FC 1 (Anthony Williams 19), Group B, Ato Boldon Stadium;

Pt Fortin Youth Academy 0, Pitchmen FC 0, Group B, Techier Recreation Ground;

Trendsetter Hawks 0, Cantaro United 1, Group A, Eddie Hart Ground;

AC Port of Spain 0, Malabar Young Stars 4 (OG, Kadeem Maloney, Jorel Grant, Kanye John), Group A, Mandela Park;

Creek S&CC 1, Soccer Made Simple 7 (Terron Miller [3], Jaheim Patrick [2], Jaahim Creed-Harry, OG), Group A, George Boyce Recreation Ground;

Eagles FC 1, Jaric Titans 0, Group C, Cyd Gray Sporting Complex;

North Stars Academy 2, Tobago East Stars 3, Group C, Cyd Gray Sporting Complex.

Photo: Cunupia FC captain Nesean Alexander (boots in the air) completely loses is balance after mistiming his attempt to meet a corner kick during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Group A

(Tabulated as Played-Won-Tied-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)

Malabar Young Stars    7-5-1-1-23716

Soccer Made Simple      7-5-0-2-21-9-15

Cantaro United                7-4-2-1-15-8-14

Trendsetter Hawks        7-4-0-3-17-12-12

AC Port of Spain              7-1-1-5-5-22-4

Creek S&CC                        7-0-0-7-5-280

Photo: Moruga FC captain Tyrique Lucas (right) denies Cunupia FC winger Winston Johnson Guerra access to the ball during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Group B

(Tabulated as Played-Won-Tied-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)

Gasparillo Youths         7-4-2-1-9-614

Cunupia FC                      7-3-2-2-12-10-11

Moruga FC                         7-3-1-3-10-8-10

Cox Football Academy 7-3-1-3-9-9-10

Point Fortin YFA            7-1-4-2-9-10-7

Pitchmen FC                    7-0-4-3-4-10-4

Photo: Gasparillo Youths winger Justin Walcott (top) is brought down by the tackleof Cox FA midfielder Mordecai Brown during NLCL U-19 action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Group C

(Tabulated as Played-Won-Tied-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)

Jaric Titans                     3-2-0-1-4-1-6

Tobago East Stars        3-2-0-1-5-4-6

Eagles FC                         3-2-0-1-2-2-6

North Stars Academy  3-0-0-3-3-70

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One comment

  1. Good day. Cud you please put the game live on TV.

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