St Anthony’s College put in a clinical performance yesterday evening to leave St Mary’s College winless after four rounds of Secondary School Football League (SSFL) Premier Division action and firmly in a relegation battle, according to St Mary’s head coach Ryan Shim.
The Westmoorings Tigers were more than worth their 4-1 score-line and now sit at the summit of the SSFL table on goal difference and with a game in hand. Shiva Boys Hindu College and Presentation College (San Fernando) are both hot on the heels of the unbeaten Tigers after narrow wins today over Trinity College Moka and Signal Hill Secondary respectively.
Defending champions, Naparima College, are just two points away after their 3-1 win over Fatima College yesterday. And so too are San Juan North Secondary who held off East Mucurapo Secondary 2-1 at Bourg Mulatresse.
There was action at the Mahaica Oval in Point Fortin too, as Fyzabad Secondary enjoyed a rare moment of bliss against Pleasantville, thanks to a 4-2 win, while St Benedict’s College got off the foot of the table following a goalless draw with St Augustine Secondary.
St Benedict’s and St Augustine are yet to get a win this season. But then so too are St Mary’s College.
And even without star attacker Kathon St Hillaire and young striker Jaydon Prowell, who are on duty the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 and Under-17 Teams respectively, St Anthony’s still had enough firepower to comfortably top the “Battle of the Saints”.
Striker Nkosi Salandy made their absences go largely unnoticed with a stellar finishing display.
At the other end, St Mary’s started the match brightly and offered an attacking intent that was starkly lacking in previous games, as Aaron Skeene, Daniel Conocchiari and Michel Poon-Angeron got freedom to roam and get creative in an offensive 4-3-3 formation. But it was St Anthony’s who struck first.
Tigers midfielder Shem Clauzel found a yard of space and fired a low shot that took a deflection before squirming under Saints’ goalkeeper Jordan Bidaisee to go down as an own goal within the first 10 minutes. However, a few minutes later, the home team’s fans were off their seats in celebration.
Poon-Angeron whipped in an excellent free kick, which was flicked on by Skeene. And the ball fell neatly to an unmarked Tyrese Spicer who scored the equalizer from close range.
With the scores level, the game was refreshingly open and entertaining with Clauzel and Skeene creating spaces and opportunities at both ends. But the stars were aligned for something special from Salandy. It was his 16th birthday.
In the 19th minute, Salandy picked the pocket of the Saints’ defender, charged down the left channel, then cut back onto his right foot before hammering a shot into the bottom far corner with unerring precision. This was exactly the kind of finisher coach Shim finds his team lacking at the moment.
In the 40th minute, Salandy doubled their advantage from a flowing move as midfield engineer Jules Lee played a through ball to Clauzel who, in turn, made a one-time pass to the unmarked Salandy. And true to form, Salandy buried his shot into the bottom corner.
By this point, St Mary’s must have thought the Tigers attacking trio resembled another famous star triumvirate based in Catalonia. Haile Beckles, Clauzel and Salandy wreaked havoc time and time again, as they interchanged, picked up excellent positions and showed intuition that made their tricks and flicks even more enjoyable.
If there was one player who could rival Salandy for the spotlight, it was the electric Beckles; an energizer of a player with speed to burn. No ball was ever a lost cause and no defender was ever comfortable when he was around.
He would have got his name on the score card earlier but for a brilliant Bidaisee save to deny after his looping volley off a Clauzel cross. This signaled an interesting spell for the two goalkeepers.
Oba Augustine was forced into a triple save to deny the Serpentine Road boys a route back into the match, as he fended away a Gabriel Nanton and then denied two follow up efforts.
However, Augustine’s moments of confidence had a short shelf-life. In the theatre of the unfortunate, he suffered a mix up with his defence and calamitously lost his footing while rushing out of his box. This left goal scorer Spicer with an open goal at mercy.
Spicer, to Shim’s horror, placed his shot wide of the post.
The reprieve set the stage for Beckles to finally get the goal that his stellar display deserved. After consistent pressure down the Saints left, especially from enterprising full back Marc Robertson, the Tigers won a corner. And Lee curled in an inviting set piece directly onto the head of Beckles who powered home St Anthony’s fourth goal of the game.
Bidaisee vehemently argued that Beckles, who had got under his skin fairly early in the game, created a foul in the build-up. But Beckles’ goal stood while Bidaisee got a yellow card for his trouble.
It was an impressive showing from St Anthony’s, who must now be considered one of the favourites for the SSFL title.
Imran Gopaul, St Anthony’s manager, knows his team is hungry for the title and is working hard to deliver it for veteran head coach Nigel Grosvenor, who is recovering from illness.
“We work hard, we are playing the game that we want to play and the results are showing it,” Gopaul told Wired868. “All of us here are playing for coach Grovy and trying hard to win the league for him. A lot of the players have an affection for Grovy, so we are trying our best to bring this title home for him.”
In contrast, Shim is struggling to find the right formula to get St Mary’s back on track and out of the danger zone.
“Last two years, we were top of the league but this year, we are at the other end,” said Shim. “Now we have to look at getting 12 points which I think will be enough to keep us in the Premiership…
“I don’t want to use the past as an excuse but I’ve lost 20-plus goals from two players [Ethan Shim and Chinua Bernard] last year and we are finding it difficult to replace those goals.”
St Mary’s College (4-3-3): 29.Jordan Bidaisee (GK); 38.Nathaniel Williams, 3.Emilio Saunders, 21.Nathan Harte, 6.Samuel Affonso; 11.Bryant Van Low, 7.Matthaeus Granger (C), 26.Michel Poon-Angeron (33.Gabriel Nanton); 8.Daniel Conocchiari, 10.Aaron Skeene (34.Terran Winner), 36.Tyrese Spicer (17.Justin Brooks).
Unused Substitutes: 1.Gordon Sabga (GK), 5.Howard Sabga, 18. Joshua Joseph, 35. Justin Keith.
Coach: Ryan Shim
St Anthony’s College (4-2-3-1): 22.Oba Augustine (GK); 5.Marc Robertson, 14.Nicaya Mahon, 15.Nicholas Moyou, 27.Derron John; 23.Sowande Prieto (16.Jordan Barclay), 8.Jules Lee, 17.Krishon Alexander (19.Jakeem McNeil); 13.Shem Clauzel, 11.Haile Beckles, 9.Nkosi Salandy.
Unused Substitutes: 2.Shakir Clapham, 6.Khiesa Granger, 20. Yevan Rajpaul, 21.Omari Wiltshire, 26.Jumaine McNeil.
Coach: Ronald Daniel
Man of the Match: Nkosi Salandy
Referee: Rodphin Harris
SSFL Premier Division results
(Saturday 17 September)
St Mary’s College 1 (Tyrese Spicer 15), St Anthony’s College 4 (OG 8, Nkosi Salandy 19, 40, Haile Beckles 85) at Serpentine Road;
Pleasantville 2, Fyzabad Secondary 4, at Mahaica Oval, P/Fortin;
St Benedict’s College 0, St Augustine 0 at Mahaica Oval, P/Fortin;
Fatima College 1, Naparima College 3 at Mucurapo Road;
Presentation San F’do 2, Signal Hill 1 at Guaracara Park;
San Juan North 2, East Mucurapo 1 at Bourg Mulatresse;
Shiva Boys HC 1, Trinity College Moka 0, at Penal;
QRC are on a bye.
Upcoming Premier Division fixtures [All kick offs at 3:40pm]
(Wednesday 21 September)
Fatima College vs St Benedict’s College at Fatima;
Signal Hill vs Fyzabad Secondary at Signal Hill;
Pleasantville vs San Juan North at Pleasantville;
Trinity College Moka vs Naparima College at Moka;
St Mary’s College vs QRC at St Mary’s;
Shiva Boys HC vs St Augustine at Penal;
Presentation San F’do vs East Mucurapo at Guaracara Park;
St Anthony’s College are on a bye.