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Naps hold off St Anthony’s for Big Four crown

Naparima College picked up its second title of the maiden Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division season this afternoon after a 2-2 draw with St Anthony’s College at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella, which assured “Naps” of the 2014 BG T&T/First Citizens Big Four title by goal difference.

Photo: Naparima College players (from left) Jarred Dass, Nicholas Thomas, Martieon Watson and Justin Sadoo celebrate their Big Four success. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Naparima College players (from left) Jarred Dass, Nicholas Thomas, Martieon Watson and Justin Sadoo celebrate their Big Four success.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Last month, Naps were crowned Premier Division champions on the back of a 6-0 romp over Shiva Boys Hindu College at their Lewis Street, San Fernando home ground.

It was a much tighter affair this evening and there were ugly scenes in the closing seconds of the game as Naparima tried to deny the “Westmoorings Tigers” of a chance at the title by literally holding on to the ball.

Four minutes into stoppage time, Kwesi Allen grabbed a late equalizer and Naparima defender Stephon Smith’s decision to clutch the ball against his chest almost sparked a brawl as the Tigers tried to rip it off him.

It was too little too late for St Anthony’s though. So close; and yet so far.

At the final whistle, Naparima and St Anthony’s each had seven points and had scored nine goals in three Big Four outings. But Naparima conceded four, which was one less than the Tigers.

And that was the difference. Well, that and perhaps the absence of star midfielder Matthew Woo Ling who watched the game from the stands. Not only was the national under-20 player suspended; but he also had the flu.

Luck deserted the Tigers yet again after, earlier in the regular season, two rescheduled fixtures at an inopportune time compounded a dip in form and saw the north zone school slip from first to third place.

Photo: St Anthony's College coach Nigel Grosvenor (right) looks on from the bench during their Big Four fixture against Naparima College at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: St Anthony’s College coach Nigel Grosvenor (right) looks on from the bench during their Big Four fixture against Naparima College at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Still, there was no doubt that Naparima looked every inch a champion team. And there was a period yesterday when one feared that the St Anthony’s team was in for another humbling experience.

After just seven minutes, Naps were two goals clear.

Midfielder flanker Akinola Gregory darted inside off the left wing and hit a speculative effort that deflected into the far corner to put Naparima ahead in only the second minute. It was his third successive goal for Naps in the competition.

Five minutes later, the southerners doubled their advantage.

Naps playmaker Jabari Mitchell slipped a ball for striker Nicholas Dillon to run on to. It should have been a 50/50 challenge for St Anthony’s captain Mawasi Charles. But it sure did not look that way as Charles bounced off the powerful striker who neatly stabbed the ball around advancing goalkeeper Carlton Alfonso for the afternoon’s second item.

Naparima goalkeeper Akeem Awong sprinted the length of the field to join his teammates in a celebratory dance at the edge of the St Anthony’s penalty box. Memories of Naps’ 5-1 regular season spanking of the Tigers were coming to mind.

But, seconds later, St Anthony’s halved the deficit. Allen headed a Shakeem Patrick corner kick towards goal and his effort was fended into the path of midfielder Denzel Woods who rammed home with a flying kick.

Photo: Naparima College midfielder Martieon Watson (right) advances with the ball while St Anthony's College midfielder Shakeem Patrick looks on. Watson was in excellent form as "Naps" held on for a 2-2 draw to take the SSFL Big Four trophy at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Naparima College midfielder Martieon Watson (right) advances with the ball while St Anthony’s College midfielder Shakeem Patrick looks on.
Watson was in excellent form as “Naps” held on for a 2-2 draw to take the SSFL Big Four trophy at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

It did not quite galvanise St Anthony’s though. For much of the first half, the boys in red and white stripes looked leaderless and short of confidence in attack.

Their two-man midfield screen of Leon Whyle and Woods was not cutting anything out while Allen and Lee, both solid, versatile players, seemed to lack the personality to lift their teammates.

Twice, Mitchell went close to a third for Naparima while an excellent Isaiah McIntyre tackle denied a close range effort from Naps flanker Jarred Dass, who had chased a long ball over the top.

Patrick got a sniff at goal in the closing seconds of the half after a loose pass from the otherwise impressive Naparima midfielder Shane Sandy. But the 2-1 scoreline did not flatter the southern champs when the whistle sounded to end the first half.

Perhaps Woods’ goal had struck a mental blow though. Naparima was the better team but seemed apprehensive about adding to its lead, particularly against an opponent with a mobile front three.

St Anthony’s took the initiative in the second half and who knows what might have happened if substitute Andrew Rullow had brought his scoring boots to Marabella.

Just six minutes after the interval, Patrick produced a brilliant left side cross that found Rullow unmarked in the six yard box. Somehow, the lanky striker missed the entire ball.

Photo: St Anthony's College attacker Darius Olliviera (right) tangles with Naparima College defender and captain Amritt Gildharry during Big Four action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: St Anthony’s College attacker Darius Olliviera (right) tangles with Naparima College defender and captain Amritt Gildharry during Big Four action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In the 65th minute, Naparima captain Amritt Gildharry, who was well below his best, got caught out of position and another St Anthony’s substitute, Darius Olliveira, headed into the opposing area for Rullow to run on to.

Rullow got his shot off this time; but it was a tame left footer that was easily held by Naparima goalkeeper Akeem Awong.

Allen had started to flicker to life by then. The St Anthony’s attacker is at his best when he has a centre forward to play off of. He is not a striker nor a winger nor a midfielder. But he is fast, has a good attitude, is a decent crosser and, best of all, has a cracking left foot shot and nose for goal.

In the 73rd minute, Allen dipped his shoulder twice to find space before rifling a left footed blast from an acute angle that Awong fended away as a matter of self-preservation.

Naparima coach Angus Eve responded by replacing Gregory with a midfield ball-winner, Kierron Mason. The southern outfit was setting its stall up to defend a slender advantage.

In the 87th minute, Eve inserted a fifth defender, Khris Stroud, at the expense of his ace striker, Dillon.

But, impressive midfield anchor Martieon Watson apart, Naps seemed to have temporarily lost their sense of purpose. Teenaged players enjoy playing to score goals not to prevent them. And, even with the prize just minutes away, concentration was wandering.

Four minutes into stoppage time, a careless Naparima clearance gifted possession to the Tigers and Rullow sped down the left flank before squaring for Allen to tap into an unguarded net from close range. Allen joined Gregory as the only players to score in all three Big Four fixtures.

Photo: Naparima College goalkeeper Akeem Awong (right) dives for the ball while St Anthony's College attacker Kwesi Allen looks on. But Awong could not deny Allen for the entire 90 minutes. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Naparima College goalkeeper Akeem Awong (right) dives for the ball while St Anthony’s College attacker Kwesi Allen looks on.
But Awong could not deny Allen for the entire 90 minutes.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Smith tried to prevent St Anthony’s players from rushing the ball back to the halfway line and Rullow and Simon Joseph accosted him as frustration boiled over.

It took almost two minutes before referee Cecile Hinds separated the two teams and regained control. And, seconds after the restart, she blew the whistle for the last time in the Big Four competition.

Two trophies down for Naparima College; and only the Intercol left to go.

(Teams)

Naparima College (4-2-3-1): 25.Akeem Awong (GK); 2.Nicholas Thomas, 19.Stephon Smith, 4.Amritt Gildharry (captain), 18.Ocean Gayah; 6.Martieon Watson, 12.Jarred Dass (29.Jeremiah Kezar 64), 11.Shane Sandy; 34.Jabari Mitchell, 7.Akinola Gregory (27.Kierron Mason 75); 20.Nicholas Dillon (3.Khris Stroud 87).

Unused substitutes: 1.Darriel Kurjah (GK), 8.Michael Basdeo, 10.Justin Sadoo, 15.Jordan Samuel.

Coach: Angus Eve

 

St Anthony’s College (4-2-3-1): 1.Carlton Alfonso (GK); 2.Jared Flament, 23.Mawasi Charles (captain), 4.Isaiah McIntyre, 18.Simon Joseph; 6.Leon Whyle, 7.Denzel Woods (5.Keston Herrera 83); 11.Adriel Kerr (9.Darius Olliveira 58), 8.Jules Lee (19.Andrew Rullow 48), 25.Shakeem Patrick; 10.Kwesi Allen.

Unused substitutes: 22.Oba Augustin (GK), 15.Shem Clauzel, 16.Brent Joel, 17.Raheem Borde.

Coach: Nigel Grosvenor

 

Referee: Cecile Hinds

 

BG T&T/First Citizens Premier Division Big Four results

(Sat Nov 1)

Naparima College 2 (Akinola Gregory 5, Nicholas Dillon 7), St Anthony’s College 2 (Denzel Woods 8, Kwesi Allen 90) at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;

San Juan North Secondary 2, Speyside Secondary 1 at San Juan;

 

(Wed Oct 29)

Speyside Secondary 2 (Brandon Benjamin, Sampson Caesar), Naparima College 5 (Jabari Mitchell [2], Nicholas Dillon, Martieon Watson, Akinola Gregory) at Roxborough;

St Anthony’s College 4 (Matthew Woo Ling 20 pen, Kwesi Allen 30, 37, 84), San Juan North 3 (Brent Sam 18, 50, Josiah Trimmingham 21) at Westmoorings;

 

(Sat Oct 25)

St Anthony’s College 3 (Kwesi Allen 44, Shem Clauzel 73, Andrew Rullow 79), Speyside 0 at Serpentine Road, St Clair;

San Juan North 0, Naparima 2 (Shane Sandy 49, Akinola Gregory 81) at San Juan;

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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19 comments

  1. Lol. I’ve seen quite a few St Anthony’s games this season. I went CIC and Arima. Those are the only schools I have any attachment to.

  2. Kirwin don’t worry with Lass he is ah St Anthony’s fan, it’s all good lass LoL

  3. Congrats to them. The team got much better when the U20’s came back

  4. Or maybe I’m expecting too much, lol

  5. I’m actually stunned to hear you say that. You must have gone to the only three games he hasn’t scored in. Lol

  6. Congrats to Naps who are undoubtedly the real Champions. I’ve seen 3 St. Anthony’s games and yet to see that cracking left foot shot from Allen. Still waiting…

  7. Supposed to be this week coming. There is supposed to be a draw for the different zones

  8. But I won’t forget when they hit Eldo 5 nil….

  9. Not just best school football team but best overall school in the land (we got 30 national scholarships to St.Anthony’s nil). As for the Mathew Woo Ling excuse well he was there when they got 5 so that is a poor excuse. Those journalist who continue to make the nation think that Woo Ling is some super duper talent should reconsider their position.He can’t even make the national U20 starting team and is hardly considered as a substitute.He will even struggle to start in Naps 5 man midfield because in the center of that midfield is Jabari,Watson and Sandy and he not better than none of them.So Mr. Journalist please give Woo Ling a rest this local football messiah role is causing more harm than good on the boy who is an ordinary talent.I do hope he has some academic qualifications to fall back on like his national team mates Jabari and Watson both of whom are form 6 students.

    • Lasana Liburd

      The game ended 2-2. So it was close. Does St Anthony’s play better with Woo Ling in the team? I’m sure even you would say “yes.”
      Therefore it might not be so far fetched to suggest that he might have made a difference in the game. Maybe. Maybe not.
      It seems that you are so distressed by Woo Ling’s perceived popularity that you have taken up the role of de-crier. I’m sure Woo Ling’s parents are pleased about your surely well-intentioned concerns about their sons academic interests though.

      • Well judging from his performance in the 1st game one will wonder if St Anthony’s is a better side without him they tend to go through him a lot which makes them very predictable. I am not crying down the boy, I’ve been following youth football for a while now and I fail to see what the big hype is about him. I have never seen him put in a commanding performance at Jabloteh, Fatima, W Connection, St Anthony’s and most importantly at National teams.
        Have you ever seen him put in a truly outstanding performance at any National Level??? The hype that was circulating about him a few years ago one would have thought that he would be dominating schools football at least but that hasn’t happened and even you can admit to that.
        At a national level players like Corbin, Garcia, Jabari, Humphrey, Hackshaw, Seecharan and Dillon have all gone past him,some are even younger than him and they were hardly ever featured in the media like him (not in wired 868 i see that you guys are trying).
        So if I sound disappointed in Woo Ling I have a right to be because the media overrated an ordinary player to his own detriment. Well I do hope his parents share my concerns about his education because he will surely be needing it in the future.
        However,from the outside taking him out of Fatima and sending him to no scholarship St.Anthony’s may not be a move for education purposes.

        • Lasana Liburd

          Well, to be fair, Woo Ling doesn’t own a media house. So it isn’t his fault that he was hyped to the heavens.
          He is not a number 10 or number 9 like Latapy, Dwarika, Whitley, Stern or Dwight. I agree that he is not the best in the country at his position, which is why he did not merit a starting position for the national under-20 team.
          But he is a very good midfield organiser at his level, he reads the game as well as most adults here and he probably takes the best set piece in the colleges league. At 18, he can still develop too.
          So, going back to my original point, he would almost certainly have improved St Anthony’s yesterday especially the way that Naparima gave away free kicks and conceded from one corner kick.
          For me, the two really outstanding colleges league players this season are Jabari Mitchell and Brent Sam.

  10. Best school team in the land. Hands down. Congrats to the entire team (players and personnel). Looking forward to the Intercol competition. Should be a good one.