Naparima College will contest the 2018 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) National Intercol Finals after an untidy 2-0 semifinal victory over St Anthony’s College at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella this evening.
Naparima will face San Juan North Secondary at a venue to be determined—although the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva is tipped for the honour—with the winner guaranteed to become the first school to two National Intercol titles in the Premier Division era.
But Naparima’s semifinal triumph was largely uninspiring, as both sets of players showed signs of wear and tear after a long season.
“[The game was] crap!” Naparima head coach Angus Eve told Wired868. “We looked a bit leg weary today. We didn’t play our normal selves but it’s good to play bad and win a game.
“But we would definitely have to improve when it’s time to meet San Juan in the finals.”
St Anthony’s coach Ronald Daniel echoed Eve’s assessment and rued the absence of key defender Ian Cowie as well as the loss of attacker Kiron Manswell in the first half. He pointed out too that the ‘Westmoorings Tigers’ played one game more than ‘Naps’ since they also faced Carapichaima East Secondary in what was essentially a play off.
“The nagging injuries was one of the problems for the boys,” said Daniel. “We had a longer road, more games and many injuries came along the way.”
St Anthony’s dream of a 2018 National Intercol final spot was swiftly dashed, as—in just the ninth minute—industrious attacker Declan Marcelle slalomed through a few challenges before unleashing a thunderous bullet into the roof of the net from the top of the opposing box.
It was by far the best moment of a match littered with poor decisions and lazy, misplaced passes.
Even the usually exuberant Naparima ‘riddim’ section could not seem to keep its beat for anything more than two minute bursts.
“They come with the section today but leave home the riddim!” shouted one spectator. “Like Naps’ riddim section only know how to play when they playing Pres!”
Neither the Westmoorings Tigers nor their chanting section fared much better, as they struggled for bite in the final third where star man Haile Beckles was never allowed a clean sight on goal.
After the half-time interval, St Anthony’s—fuelled by a snarling Daniel on the sidelines—forced Naps onto the back foot with Khiesa Grainger enjoying their best opportunity, as he volleyed over the bar with the goal gaping.
A set piece seemed their most likely avenue for an equalizer. But when specialist Josiah Edwards curled his 25 yard free kick wide in the second half, it felt like the fight well and truly left the Tigers.
Isa Bramble put the icing on Naparima’s cake soon after with an arrowed finish into the bottom corner, after a clever through ball from Marcelle.
Eve, whose Naparima team have a five match unbeaten run against San Juan, pointed out that—despite their drab semifinal showing—his charges are no mugs.
“So far we have four clean sheets [in the 2018 Intercol competition] and we just have to get one more,” said Eve. “Coming in after the league when we were unbeaten, we told ourselves that we are going into this tournament with the target of not allowing any goals to score against us. And we think that if we get the five clean sheets, we would win the games as more than likely we will score the goals.
“That’s the target that we have set ourselves as a team so we just have to go in that last game and try to achieve that.”
Naparima fans will hope for shut out number five next Tuesday when the face the ‘Bourg Mulatresse Boys’ in a historic final.
Naparima College (4-2-3-1): Levi Fernandez (GK) (captain); 5.Daquon Foster, 4.Tyrike Andrews, 13.Jeron Pantor, 8.Kodel Frontin; 6.Shoaib Khan (15.Marvin Waldrop), 17.Nathaniel Perouse; 19. Isa Bramble, 7.Mark Ramdeen (9.Ezekiel Kesar), 10.Declan Marcelle; 20.Seon Shippley (18.Caleb Gaspar).
Unused Substitutes: 14.Molik Khan, 16.Akil Johnson, 24.Jabari Lee, 30.Enrique Changiah.
Coach: Angus Eve
St Anthony’s College (4-3-3): Josiah Perez (GK); 18.Shakir Clapham, 5.Jesse Williams, 16.Jordan Barclay, 6.Khiesa Grainger; 26.Timothy Brandel, 13.Quinn Frederick (8.Romario Burke), 15.Jahmai George (14.Jahi Solomon); 9.Zion Williams, 11.Haile Beckles (captain), 2.Kiron Manswell (10.Josiah Edwards).
Unused Substitutes: 7.Kaihim Thomas, 12.Mikhail Prescod, 22.Darnell Pollard, 27.Shurland Augustine.
Coach: Ronald Daniel
National Intercol semifinal
(Friday 30 November)
Naparima College 2 (Declan Marcelle 9, Isa Bramble 87), St Anthony’s College 0 at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium.