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Lawrence: Guyana draw was unfair, we should have settled game in first half

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence said the final scoreline yesterday was unfair to the Soca Warriors, despite having to come from behind to hold Guyana 1-1 in their final 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup fixture.

Both teams knew they had no chance of advancing to the knockout stage before kick off and the Soca Warriors eventually finished below Guyana in Group D on goal difference—although the ‘Golden Jaguars’ are ranked 85 places behind T&T at 177 and were playing their first Gold Cup tournament.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Mekeil Williams (foreground) is held back by Guyana midfielder Callum Harriott during Gold Cup action on 26 June 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo)

Wingers Levi Garcia and Jomal Williams tested Guyana’s debutante goalkeeper Quillan Roberts in the first half before veteran Neil Danns put the Jaguars ahead in the 53rd minute. Offensive Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino nicked a late equaliser in the 79th minute after a lofted diagonal pass behind the opposing defence by Garcia.

Lawrence suggested that the game should have been settled in favour of the twin island republic long before then.

“Overall when you look at it, football is a very simple game; [if] you score and the opposition don’t score, [then] you win the game,” said Lawrence, at the post-game press conference. “And for the amount of chances we had today, I think the game should have been over—probably in the first half. We didn’t take our chances and as I’m always saying, a Guyanese team that has very good determination, they kept going, they managed to get their noses in front and it was uphill for us.

“But all in all, if you look at the amount of chances we created in the game, I didn’t think the result was fair or balanced if you want to put it that way.”

Trinidad and Tobago were on a run of seven games without a goal or a win before kick off yesterday while they lost their last three matches against Canada, Panama and the United States respectively.

Lawrence conceded that he was at least satisfied to avoid another defeat.

“Overall in the end again, disappointed to not come away with three points and some goals under our belt but at the same time we didn’t lose the game,” said Lawrence. “Credit to the boys for managing to get back in the game.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence speaks to the media after his team’s 2-0 loss to USA in Gold Cup action on 22 June 2019.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

Incidentally, Guyana coach Michael Johnson thought the Jaguars’ performance against Trinidad and Tobago was their worst showing of the tournament, although he was happy to get their first ever point at the Gold Cup.

“Today we just were not at it—we never got started [and] it was slow, it was pedestrian,” said Johnson, at the post-game press conference. “I’ve just said to my players well done for what has been a great tournament; but to end on a performance like that was a bit of a sour note. You’ve got to be honest—it was nowhere to where I would expect, nowhere near the standards we set ourselves for the first two games.

“[…] The best thing is not finishing bottom of the group. So it’s great to finish in third place… I’m sure this is the start of you seeing us regularly at the Gold Cup. That is the hope, the dream, the belief.

“[…] For probably all of our players this is the first ever they’ve been on a stage like this and I’d like to think over the course of the three games they’ve done themselves really proud.”

Lawrence will be Trinidad and Tobago’s longest serving football coach in history if he gets to the end of his term, after the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFA) awarded him a two and a half year contract extension a few months ago.

And yesterday, TTFA president David John-Williams told the Trinidad Guardian that he still has faith in Lawrence—despite intense public criticism of the football president and coach after their humiliating 6-0 loss to USA last weekend.

Photo: USA goal scorer Christian Pulisic (second from right) is congratulated by teammates after his goal against Trinidad and Tobago in Gold Cup action at Cleveland on 22 June 2019.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

“At the end of the day, he does not have to put the ball be­hind the net and nei­ther do I,” said John-Williams. “I think we played rel­a­tive­ly well against the US for 65 min­utes and it went all down­hill af­ter we con­ced­ed the sec­ond goal… Foot­ball is about mo­ments and that mo­ment when Levi Gar­cia missed that op­por­tu­ni­ty—we’re not cru­ci­fy­ing him for it—but it would have been a dif­fer­ent ball game.

“So in T&T, there will be that out­cry for that de­feat but we can­not hang our heads and say die, but we have got to move on. [Lawrence] is a pro­fes­sion­al and well-trained coach, who […] has coached at the high­est lev­el and I have a lot of faith in Den­nis.”

Molino, who returned from a 13-month injury enforced lay-off earlier this year, said the Warriors will take a long hard look at themselves after this tournament and consider where they can improve before the Concacaf Nations Cup starts in September.

“It’s going to hurt for a while because it is two years we have to wait for this tournament,” Molino told the TTFA Media. “[For the fans] keep believing. We are going to keep fighting and try our best under difficult circumstances… I think we have what it takes but we definitely need to fix our mentality.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (foreground) controls the ball on his chest during Gold Cup action against Guyana on 26 June 2019.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

Trinidad and Tobago finished 14th from 16 participating nations at the Gold Cup, ahead of only Nicaragua and Cuba. They managed 13 shots on target from three group matches combined—10 of those coming yesterday against Guyana—and scored one goal with nine conceded.

From the eight Caribbean nations at the 2019 Gold Cup: Haiti, Jamaica and Curaçao qualified for the knock out rounds, Bermuda and Martinique won a match each, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago left with one point apiece, and Cuba lost all three matches.

The Warriors return to action on 6 September when they play away to Martinique.

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  1. Why are we so content to settle for this? Our performances have been way below the level of talent on the team. If DJW and Dennis are not to blame then this sets a precedent for excuses from others who may be in those future roles. Infact it means anyone can fill those shoes and blame the players.