Nathan Lewis and Akeem Roach came off the substitutes’ bench to score their maiden international goals for the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team tonight but it was only enough to secure a 2-2 draw against Grenada at the Kirani James Athletic Stadium in St George’s.
Remarkably, the result stretched Grenada’s unbeaten run against Trinidad and Tobago to four games and eight years. The “Spice Boys” drew 2-2 with the Soca Warriors in another friendly international on 19 January 2016 while Grenada won both of their last two competitive meetings with T&T in the 2008 and 2010 Caribbean Cup tournaments respectively.
It is a statistic that is all the more mind-boggling since Grenada are currently ranked 176th out of the 211 nations recognised by FIFA and have not played a single match since 7 June 2016 when they were crushed 5-1 away to Antigua and Barbuda.
“In the first half Grenada were very well organised in their defensive shape and we moved the ball far too slow, also giving the ball away in crucial areas of the pitch where Grenada should have capitalised,” Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “In the second half, we tried to move the ball quicker and more positive where we were creating problems in wide areas and managed to get total control, keeping Grenada playing on the counter attack which we dealt with for most of the second half.
“But once we took the lead, we did not manage the game after and we made an error yet again allowing Grenada to score the equaliser.”
The Warriors were not at full strength and Lawrence had just three players—Carlos Edwards, Curtis Gonzales and Jamille Boatswain—who featured in last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico.
But it was not exactly a raw squad either with attacker Jerrel Britto, who plays professionally in Honduras, the only debutant while eight of Lawrence’s starting team have previous CONCACAF or FIFA World Cup experience.
At the end of the first half, Grenada, despite not seeing much of the ball, led 1-0 through a Denron Frederick item and they had struck the bar twice.
God knows what was going through the mind of Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, who started in all four of his country’s last clashes with Grenada and has gone far too long without being able to celebrate the final whistle.
Lawrence turned to his bench and the speedy Lewis, who replaced Britto, was on the field for less than five minutes when he got on the end of a pass from Mexico-based midfielder Jomal Williams to equalise.
Perhaps Grenada’s own substitution was just as relevant. Coach Anthony Modeste had just swapped goalkeeper Jason Belfon with Shemel Louison, who was Lewis’ teammate at San Juan Jabloteh last season.
Having already exchanged striker Shahdon Winchester for Jamille Boatswain at the interval, Lawrence introduced another pacy frontman as Akeem Roach came on for Williams. And, again, the change was effective as Roach put Trinidad and Tobago ahead late in the 80th minute, off an assist from another substitute, Alvin Jones.
But, once more, the Warriors could not manage a win as Grenada conjured a 89th minute equaliser from Saydrel Lewis to maintain their impressive run against the two-island republic.
Lawrence, who was playing away from home for the first time as head coach, did not have 14 players from the squad that faced Panama and Mexico and there are likely to be sweeping changes before he travels to face the United States and Costa Rica in early June.
But it was another reminder that the Warriors are no longer the force which once routinely swept through the Caribbean for a record eight regional titles.
Lawrence was still a player when the Trinidad and Tobago team lifted their last Caribbean Cup trophy; that was 16 years ago.
The Warriors’ next confirmed fixture is away to the United States on 8 June and Lawrence is concerned about the lack of competitive football for his players in the interim. As such, he declared yesterday’s exhibition as a useful outing.
“All in all it was a very good exercise as the main focus is to get enough competitive football before the qualifier against the US on June 8th,” said Lawrence. “There is not much competitive football for most of the boys until the [Pro] League starts on May 26th and we have to close the gap before we head into the two qualifiers, which would require having to get as much football for them before that period.”
Trinidad and Tobago: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 2.Carlos Edwards, 5.Curtis Gonzales, 4.Yohance Marshall, 3.Triston Hodge (16.Alvin Jones 80); 6.Jared London, 8.Leston Paul; 11.Jerrel Britto (15.Nathan Lewis 64), 10.Hashim Arcia (20.Keron Cummings), 7.Jomal Williams (18.Akeem Roach 77); 9.Shahdon Winchester (19.Jamille Boatswain 46).
Unused substitutes: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 12.Seon Power, 13.Hughton Hector.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence.
( 29 April 2017)
Grenada 2 (Denron Frederick 40, Saydrel Lewis 89), Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Nathan Lewis 66, Akeem Roach 80) at Kirani James Stadium, St George’s.