“I did something different [at halftime],” said Naparima College coach Angus Eve. “I kept them out of the dressing room and in the rain to keep them with that edge and really push them to go forward; because we weren’t playing bad; we just weren’t playing with enough intensity.”
Domestic coaches don’t come much more pragmatic than Eve and it might be revealing that he felt it necessary to resort to such tactics to get a response from his young squad against St Augustine Secondary today in Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) action at their Lewis Street home ground in San Fernando.
At the final whistle, Eve was singing his team’s praises in the rain as they dragged their way back from a 2-0 deficit to pip St Augustine at the finish line and win 3-2.
“Give yourselves a clap,” Eve told his charges. “For the last two games, you showed a lot of character…”
It might have been reasonable for Eve to ask his players to applaud their captain, Judah St Louis, instead.
Sure, it is often simplistic to single out players in a team game when there are so many moving parts that contribute to the final result. But, in a delicately poised affair, an inspired individual can make a decisive contribution—and that was surely the case at Lewis Street, where St Louis scored a hattrick in the last 14 minutes of the affair to stun the “Green Machine.”
“I thought [St Augustine] had a little more ball possession than us; I thought we were hurrying in possession,” said Eve. “They are a very talented bunch of guys over there. Unlucky for them but I thought we really showed in the second half that we wanted it more.”
Unbeaten so far this season at kick-off, St Augustine looked on the verge of something special today as they bossed the SSFL bigwigs on their home ground. And left-back Stephon Eallie was definitely in the mood to leave his mark against an outfit that has copped two Premier Division titles in the last three years.
From his own half of the field, Eallie appeared to spot opposing goalkeeper Enrique Changiah too far off his line and responded with a strike that combined power, accuracy and, yes, some good fortune.
“I don’t know if it was a cross or a shot but, credit to him,” said Eve, “it was a great goal.”
Naparima trailed by that solitary wonder goal at the half and Eve opted to keep his players out in the cold during the interval. Whether the tactic worked is debatable as it was the Green Machine who struck first in the second half.
Coach Adrian Romain introduced talented attacker Anthony Samuel from off the substitutes’ bench and the winger responded, in the 73rd minute, with an improvised flick off a right-side cross to double Naparima’s misfortune.
At the other end, ‘Naps’ seemed as concerned with referee Michael Farley as with their green visitors. But they had not given up.
“We have been getting a lot of bad calls; a lot of refereeing calls are going against us,” said Eve. “[But] we showed a lot of mental fortitude. I thought we never gave up today and we just kept going…”
Eve turned to his own bench, introducing attackers Isa Bramble and Shoaib Khan and midfielder Andre Raymond. And almost immediately, Bramble began making inroads down the right flank.
Still, it seemed like too little too late when Naparima finally pulled a goal back in the 78th minute as St Louis headed into an empty net from a Bramble cross with St Augustine goalkeeper Ajahri Murrien curiously absent.
Last weekend, St Augustine led St Benedict’s College 3-0 at halftime only to concede twice after the break and eventually stumble to a 4-2 win after their opponents had a player ejected.
At San Fernando, the Green Machine again went into neutral too early and Naps were not about to let them off the hook.
In the 85th minute, Murrien cleared a goalkick straight at Khan, who collected about 25 yards from goal. St Augustine defender Jamal Meloney tried to clean up his goalkeeper’s error but only succeeded in chopping down the advancing Khan and St Louis made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Two-all with four minutes to go! St Louis sprinted half the field to celebrate with Naparima supporters in the stands. Surely it couldn’t get better than this?
“Shoaib really fought and he made a penalty out of nothing,” said Eve. “We were talking about that this week. We were telling them they have to make bad balls [into] good balls and I thought he [did exactly that and] got a penalty.”
St Augustine gave the hosts another scare in the 88th minute, as Samuel danced inside and slipped the ball into the path of forward Allan Hogan. But, as Hogan shaped to shoot, Naps defender Tyrike Andrews slid in to put the ball out for a corner kick.
The game seemed destined to end in a draw when Naparima won a free kick down their left flank, about 30 yards from goal.
Murrien crept towards the crowded penalty spot in anticipation of a cross from St Louis. If he hadn’t been aware of St Louis’ prowess with the dead ball, he will not forget now.
St Louis spanked a superb dipping effort into the far corner to leave the custodian with no chance and ignite the damp venue.
“Credit to the guys, they were tremendous today,” said Eve. “We want to win [the title]. We are not as experienced as we were in the past. Ninety percent of our team played in the National Under-16 final last year when we lost to Trinity East… And as a young team, we know their performances are going to be a bit up and down.
“[…] We just have a few really experienced players in Judah, [Rondell] Payne—who didn’t play today after that phantom red card against St Anthony’s—and [Rushawn] Murphy; and the guys just have to rally around them. They are the spine of the team and, if we are missing two of them, like against Fatima, we are in real trouble.”
Murphy was largely in subdued mood yesterday but St Louis picked up the slack and did enough for both of them. Unpretentious yet decisive, the stocky “Smurf” kept popping up where St Augustine did not want him—and, by the final whistle, Romain and his boys must have been sick of the sight of him.
Naparima remain ninth in the 16-team standings—below St Augustine on goal difference—and eight points below runaway leaders and defending champions Shiva Boys Hindu College, who are now the only team still with a 100 percent record in the competition.
For now, though, Eve is happy to take it one win at a time and he stopped to smell the roses on Lewis Street.
“The boys really had to grind out a victory today,” he said. “I am very proud of them.”
There were 10 Naparima players on the field who provided the perspiration. But it was St Louis who contributed the inspiration.
Naparima College (4-3-3): 30.Enrique Changiah (GK); 15.Shadeon Arthur, 2.Tyrike Andrews, 13.Jeron Pantor, 8.Kodel Frontin; 16.Decklan Marcelle, 9.Rushawn Murphy, 6.Judah St Louis (captain); 18.Ronaldo McIntosh (7.Isa Bramble), 20.Kareem Blake Williams (17.Shoaib Khan), 10.Mark Ramdeen (19.Adrian Raymond).
Unused substitutes: 22.Rashad Hart (GK), 4.Asukile Christopher, 14.Ezekiel Kesar, 23.Kern Cedeno.
Coach: Angus Eve
St Augustine Secondary (4-2-3-1): 25.Ajahri Murrien (GK); 6.Terron Luke, 2.Nykoaba James (captain), 18.Jamal Meloney, 4.Stephon Eallie (3.Zion Holder); 5.Darian Parks (13.Daniel Rahaman), 12.Rivaldo Coryot; 11.Akeem Hosten, 8.Jeremiah Vidale, 23.Kendell Hitlal (7.Anthony Samuel); 17.Allan Hogan.
Unused substitutes: 9.Emmanuel Cumberbatch, 14.Jalani Augustus, 15.Jirel Meloney, 21.Nikhail Greene.
Coach: Adrian Romain
Referee: Michael Farley
Wired868 Man of the-Match: Judah St Louis (Naparima College)
SSFL Premier Division results
(Saturday 23 September)
Naparima College 3 (Judah St Louis 76, 80 pen, 90), St Augustine Secondary 2 (Stephon Eallie 42, Anthony Samuel 63) at Lewis Street;
Carapichaima East 1 (Macaheil Alexander 10), Presentation College 2 (Omri Baird 1, Jaiye Sheppard 31) at Carapichaima;
Trinity College Moka 0, Shiva Boys HC 2 (Kierron Mason 50, 90 pen) at Moka;
Signal Hill 2 (Akil Frank pen, Tareek Richards), St Mary’s College 3 (Devon Charles 16, Tyrese Spicer 71, 93) at Signal Hill;
QRC 0, Fatima College 2 (Jean-Heim McFee, Luke Darwent) at QRC;
Speyside High 0, Trinity College East 3 (Kishorn Hackshaw 25, 78, Kordell Sween 14) at Speyside;
St Benedict’s College 1 (Jaycee Paras), San Juan North 1 (Brandon Semper) at Barrackpore;
St Anthony’s College v Fyzabad Secondary at St Anthony’s, (Called off to due to field conditions).
(Played-Won-Drew-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
- Shiva Boys HC 5-5-0-0-16-2-15
- Presentation 5-4-1-0-13-4-13
- Fyzabad Sec 4-3-0-1-6-4-9
- Fatima 5-3-0-2-5-4-9
- San Juan N 5-1-4-0-13-6-7
- Trinity East 5-2-1-2-8-5-7
- St Anthony’s 4-2-1-1-8-6-7
- St Augustine 4-2-1-1-8-6-7
- Naparima 5-2-1-2-9-8-7
- Carapichaima E 5-2-1-2-7-7-7
- St Mary’s 4-1-2-1-8-10-5
- QRC 5-1-1-3-4-10-4
- Trinity Moka 5-1-0-4-4-16-3
- Speyside High 5-1-0-4-3-11-3
- St Benedict’s 5-0-2-3-5-12-2
- Signal Hill 5-0-1-4-3-9-1