“As long as you have someone like a [Willis] Plaza in the team, he can make something out of nothing [for you],” said San Juan Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey. “And anyone who sees the third goal [against Police FC] will know what I mean.”
Yesterday’s Pro League fixture at the Ato Boldon Stadium was a scrappy encounter as neither San Juan Jabloteh nor Police FC were at their best. Jabloteh striker Willis Plaza notwithstanding, of course.
Plaza was involved in all three goals in Couva, as Jabloteh held off the “Lawmen” 3-2 to remain within one point of leaders and defending champions, Central FC.
Police, on the other hand, are sixth in the 10-team standings and have not registered a win since their opening rout of Ma Pau Stars.
“Obviously the result was disappointing for us and I was disappointed with the performance as well,” Police coach Richard Hood told Wired868. “I expected much more from our team… Our defensive midfielders didn’t do their job and [winger] Josh Leach looked very nervous last night for some reason. And we didn’t get what we wanted from the other flank.
“And then Christon Thomas is blowing hot and cold…”
You’re always going to find it difficult when so many parts of your squad are not delivering. Throw in an injury crisis that includes striker Makesi Lewis—the 2015/16 Pro League’s top scorer—captain and midfield lynchpin Todd Ryan and free scoring winger Kareem Freitas and it easier to understand Hood’s predicament.
Not that Police made it easy for Jabloteh though.
“The game was very physical and very hard fought,” said Jeffrey. “It could have gone either way. Earlier in the season, I said Police [are] one of the most dangerous teams and I think they outplayed us at times last night…
“I was disappointed with [Jabloteh] last night. Our possession play was poor and the way we went about winning back the ball was poor.”
With both squads below their usual standard, the result hinged upon which team could punish the other’s mistakes. And Plaza set the tone, in the 13th minute, as he converted Jabloteh’s opening item on the second attempt after a Tyrone Charles cross.
Jabloteh doubled their lead in the 34th minute though Plaza’s strike partner, Jamal Gay. This time, Police custodian Adrian Foncette saved the first and second attempt by Plaza—off a Noel Williams cross—only for Gay to bury the rebound.
The Lawmen halved the deficit just before the interval, though, as versatile attacking midfielders Christon Thomas blasted home from a Jameel Perry square. And Jeffrey conceded that, despite the halftime score, Police were the better outfit.
“Richard Hood made adjustments in the middle of the park and there were outnumbering us there,” Jeffrey told Wired868. “I didn’t want to change [Jabloteh’s system] because Jamal Gay and Plaza on top were doing nice things for me. But in the second half, I brought Gay back [into the midfield] so we could match up…
“Jamal had an excellent game in the middle of the park and broke up a lot of [their] play and helped us in the air where [Police striker] Jameel Perry is a handful.”
Police did score again, though.
Substitute Keion Wilson looked to have run down in a dead alley as he tussled for the ball with the more powerful duo of Gay and Jabloteh defender Josiah Trimmingham, just outside the Jabloteh penalty area in the 84th minute. Somehow, he managed to wriggle free from the former and squeeze a shot before the latter defender could react.
Veteran Jabloteh goalkeeper and former Guyana international Andrew Durant—who is filling in for the injured Shemel Louison—could only look on open-mouthed, as the ball whistled into the corner of the goal to his left.
Wilson tried to repeat the trick in stoppage time, after Perry headed a long ball into his path, and it took a flying intervention from defender Jerome McIntyre to save Jabloteh’s result, as he put his body on the line to make the block.
And the Jabloteh saw off their opponents in graceless fashion, as Jamaican central defender Adrian Reid seemed to have an extensive repertoire of time killing manoeuvres, which rookie referee, Joel Cox, failed to penalise. But Jeffrey was in no mood to be critical.
“While the referee was a rookie, I have no problem with the game he did,” said Jeffrey. “As time goes by, he can only better.”
For Hood, it might feel as though everything is conspiring against Police FC these days. He had hoped to have Ryan back in his squad to face Central in their next fixture, only to be told yesterday that they must play on Friday evening.
It means that Central would have enjoyed five days rest before their clash while the injury-ravaged Lawmen will get just two days off.
“They give you a fixture list [for the season] and every week they are changing it,” said Hood. “I didn’t know when I would be playing next but I didn’t think it would be three days later. I think it is very unfair to us.
“We rest today and train tomorrow and then the game is on Friday. How much can we possibly do in that one session to prepare for the Central game?”
Ironically, a former Central employee might have helped soften up Police’s defence for their Friday clash. Yesterday’s game was generally scrappy throughout and unedifying at the end, but Plaza’s one moment of brilliance, midway through the second half, was arguably worth the price of admission.
As a ball was played invitingly into the right channel, Plaza sneakily leaned into his marker, Elijah Belgrave, before shooting off after it. Belgrave fell over. Cox waved play on.
Plaza, challenged by Belgrave’s central defensive partner Ryan O’Neil, chopped the ball to his left as he glided gracefully inside his opponent to win himself a half of a yard to shoot on his left foot.
And then the journeyman striker, who has 22 senior international caps with seven goals, cocked his left boot to shot… And chopped again to take him in the opposite direction.
O’Neil, a 2007 Under-17 World Cup defender, was on his backside now. And Foncette never really stood a chance.
Bang! Plaza arrowed the ball across the body of the Police goalkeeper and low into the far corner. All around the stadium, spectators widened their eyes and pulled faces.
“I think [Police FC] had the better of the game but I had the players who can single-handedly win games like Plaza, Tyrone [Charles], Jamal [Gay] and Noel [Williams],” said Jeffrey. “And we don’t have Nathan [Lewis] back yet. These players can do something on their own and win a game for you.
“And that is what makes us one of the most dangerous teams in the league.”
Police FC (4-2-3-1): 18.Adrian Foncette (GK); 6.Jibiri McDavid, 3.Ryan O’Neil, 20.Elijah Belgrave, 38.Nequan Caruth; 8.Kurdell Brathwaite (25.Kenaz Williams 75), 14.Kaaron Foster; 39.Joshua Leach (23.Micah Lewis 58), 19.Christon Thomas, 12.Kadeem Riley (16.Keion Wilson 65); 15.Jameel Perry.
Unused substitutes: 22.Theon Browne (GK), 2.Akeil Thomas, 5.Anton Hutchinson, 17.Dexter Alleyne.
Coach: Richard Hood
San Juan Jabloteh (4-2-2-2): 35.Andrew Durant (GK); 18.Jevon Morris (captain), 24.Adrian Reid, 17.Josiah Trimmingham, 15.Jerome McIntyre; 12.Kion Joseph, 5.Elijah Manners (11.Damian Williams 80); 10.Tyrone Charles, 19.Noel Williams (16.Brent Sam 68); 7.Jamal Gay, 9.Willis Plaza.
Unused substitutes: 36.Raheem Belgrave (GK), 8.Keyon Edwards, 23.Kennedy Hinkson.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
Referee: Joel Cox
Man of the Match: Willis Plaza
Pro League results
(Friday 28 October)
W Connection 2 (Andre Toussaint 31, Dimitrie Apai 79), Defence Force 0 at Mahaica Oval;
Central FC 0, Ma Pau Stars 0 at Mahaica Oval;
(Sunday 30 October)
Club Sando 3 (Keron Cornwall 32, Akeem Roach 56, Shaquille Holder 89), Morvant Caledonia Utd 3 (Kordell Samuel 42, Akim Armstrong 62, Jameel Neptune 90) at Mahaica Oval;
Point Fortin Civic 0, St Ann’s Rangers 4 (Osaze Springer 4, Dylon King 6, Jomoul Francois 49, 80) at Mahaica Oval;
(Tuesday 1 November)
Police FC 2 (Christon Thomas 45, Keion Wilson 84), San Juan Jabloteh 3 (Willis Plaza 13, 63, Jamal Gay 34) at Ato Boldon Stadium.
(Friday 4 November)
Central FC vs Police FC, 6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection vs St Ann’s Rangers, 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Sunday 6 November)
Morvant Caledonia vs Defence Force, 3.45pm, Morvant Recreation Ground;
San Juan Jabloteh vs Point Fortin Civic, 4pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Club Sando vs Ma Pau, 6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.
Standings (Tabulated as Won-Drawn-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
Central FC 5-4-1-0-10-4-13
S/Juan Jabloteh 5-4-0-1-10-6-12
W Connection 5-3-1-1-14-5-10
S/A Rangers 5-3-1-1-9-4-10
Ma Pau Stars 5-2-1-2-6-6-7
Police FC 5-1-2-2-11-10-5
M’vt Caledonia 5-1-2-2-10-11-5
Club Sando 5-1-1-3-8-10-4
Defence Force 5-1-0-4-5-12-3
Point Fortin 5-0-1-4-3–18-1