Guaya United club director Randy Hagley may have to change his number after Friday evening’s result to avoid a flood of requests to borrow his crystal ball.
The opening match of the Ascension Invitational Tournament went according to plan for the hosts, as Guaya, a Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) team, surprised their more illustrious Pro League visitors, Police FC, 2-1 at the Guayaguayare Recreation Ground.
The outing was the first of two Ascension fixtures yesterday and the second finished in a goalless draw as FC Santa Rosa and QPCC fired blanks at the Arima Velodrome, with teenager John-Paul Rochford missing a late penalty for the former outfit.
Action continues this evening as Matura Re-United hosts Club Sando from 4pm at the Matura Recreation Ground while Morvant Caledonia AIA tackle Prison Services at the Hasely Crawford Stadium Training Ground. Cunupia FC and Defence Force do battle from 3.30pm tomorrow at the Larry Gomes Stadium while the fixture between Terminix La Horquetta Rangers and San Juan Jabloteh is postponed.
At Guayaguayare yesterday, Police were stronger on paper and controlled the early proceedings but, in the end, were undone by the spirit of their hosts.
“I was elated,” said new Guaya head coach Travis Mulraine, who swapped east coast employers after working for Matura Re-United last season. “We have been waiting for the start of the league [and] working hard for the last couple of months, [so] it’s great to start off with a victory.
“We inserted a lot of young guys into the team this year and I was happy to see that when they were given the opportunity they went out, they took it with both hands and they got the reward.”
There were about 200 patrons at the Guayaguayare ground for the opening whistle yesterday. But as the sun began to dip, hometown supporters streamed into the ground—often ignoring the pavilion to pack as close to the field as possible.
Similarly, Guaya’s ‘Green Army’ grew into the match.
Ten minutes in and Guaya were rocking as winger Keston Frontin kept his calm in a storm of players to poke in the game’s opening goal off a corner kick that the ‘Lawmen’ failed to deal with.
After a bright start, Police’s midfield trio of J’Deem Parris, Kareem Perry and Kareem Freitas were struggling to overcome the graft and moxie of the Guaya trio of Anthony Wolfe, Keylon Thomas and Jody Allsop.
Still, the visitors managed a fine equaliser in the 21st minute, as Christian Thomas cut in from the right wing and evaded a couple of tackles before tucked a sharp half-volley into the corner.
It was not immediately clear where Guaya could find find another a goal. Veteran right back Leroy Jones played upfront for the hosts who lost star striker Carlon ‘Judgment’ Hughes to rivals, Matura. And the Guaya supporters, who deserve the ‘most quotable fan base’ award based on their opening night contributions, did not seem to think it was a like-for-like swap.
“Go and pull seine!” one supporter shouted at Jones, as the teams went into the break deadlocked.
Jones went on to spurn a glorious second half chance—with only Police custodian Adrian Foncette to beat—before he was withdrawn in the second half.
But Mulraine stressed that Jones contributed to their success.
“[Jones] worked tirelessly up front,” Mulraine told Wired868. “[He] had a few chances to score [and didn’t]; but the pressure he applied on the [Police] defence created chances [and] stopped them from playing, especially in the second half.”
It would be a brave man to second-guess Mulraine’s tactical nous, as his halftime changes had an unmistakable impact yesterday.
“In the first half, we dropped off a bit to try and play on the counter,” said Mulraine, “but I realised their players weren’t too comfortable on the ball, so I was doing the team a disservice by doing that. So [in the] second half, we decided to press a lot higher and it paid dividends.”
Pacy winger Shaquelle Ferrier was key to that turnaround, as he came off the bench to grab the match winner. (The Ascension Invitational, which serves as a pre-season tournament for the ‘T-League’, allows teams to use five substitutes.)
“That boy real fast!” shouted one enthused Guaya fan. “He gliding across the field like Mr Solo on the water!”
The Police defence would know what he meant, as Ferrier bounced off opposing flanker Dillon Kirton before outpacing him and then surprising Foncette to beat him to the loose ball, which he poked into an abandoned goal.
Guaya fans spent the remaining 25 minutes willing referee Rashby McPhie to blow the final whistle and, ironically, questioning his impartiality when he insisted on the full 90 minutes plus stoppage time.
“I feel he married to a policewoman yes,” one supporter muttered, as he waited for McPhie to perform the last rites.
Fortunately for Guaya, Police never looked up for the fight and coach Richard Hood looked exasperated with the effort of the visitors.
“I was not happy with the game,” said Hood, after the final whistle. “I thought for some parts of the game we didn’t control it as much as we would like. We had some decent attacks but we have been struggling to score goals, so I think we saw a reflection of that tonight.
“We failed to finish when really we should have. I was not overly happy with our organisation at the back [in] allowing soft goals either.
“So positives [about that performance]? Not much.”
Injuries denied Hood the services of several key players including forwards Jameel Perry and Keion Wilson yesterday while he admitted that Guaya made better use of the uneven surface.
“The field was extremely bumpy, so it was difficult to play the kind of football that we want to play,” said Hood. “Then the opponent was very aggressive, so kudos to them. But we wanted too much time to play.”
At the other end, Mulraine was pleased with his young warriors and made special mention of right back Makwesi Dujon.
“I think [Dujon was] excellent,” said Mulraine. “We played a couple practice games and he was a little over aggressive but [against Police] he showed a lot of maturity and he held out at the back. So I would give him the Man of the Match award.”
Mulraine and Guaya buzzed with optimism at the final whistle last night.
“Guaya coming for everything this season!” shouted one supporter.
It is still early days.
Guaya United (4-2-3-1): 1.Denzil Carabon (GK); 4.Makwesi Dujon, 6.Cio Morris (24.Glenton Wolfe 83), 23.Kerwyn Navarro (captain), 21.Dakiel Ferreira; 18.Keylon Thomas, 20.Anthony Wolfe; 73.Keston Frontin (9.Shaquille Farrier 64), 7.Jody Allsop (3.Akeil Paul 46), 17.Brandon Roberts (22.Franklyn Romain 46); 77.Leroy Jones (16.Ronaldo McIntosh 83rd).
Coach: Travis Mulraine
Police FC (3-4-3): 18.Adrian Foncette (GK); 3.Ryan O’Neil, 17.Dexter Alleyne (8.Kurdell Brathwaite 46), 12.Nequan Caruth; 13.Dillon Kirton, 6.J’Deem Parris (Marcus Chandool 82), 7.Kareem Perry (5.Kenaz Williams 66), 29.Clevon McFee (27.Kaydion Gabriel 58th); 15.Christian Thomas, 20.Elijah Belgrave, 10.Kareem Freitas (Joshua Leach 72).
Coach: Richard Hood
Ascension Invitational Tournament
Round One Results
(Fri 12 Jul)
Guaya Utd 2 (Keston Frontin 10, Shaquelle Ferrier 65), Police FC 1 (Christian Thomas 21) at Guayaguayare;
FC Santa Rosa 0, QPCC 0 at Arima.
(Sat 13 Jul)
Matura Re-United v Club Sando, 4pm, Matura Recreation Ground;
Morvant Caledonia AIA v Prison Services, 4pm, YTC, Arouca;
(Sun 14 Jul)
Cunupia FC v Defence Force FC, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium.