The star-studded Terminix La Horquetta Rangers (LHR) team flexed their muscles again last night, as they thumped Cunupia FC 4-1 in their Ascension Invitational Tournament encounter at the Phase 2 La Horquetta Recreation Ground.
After following up on their opening 10-2 win against Matura ReUnited with a goalless draw against Defence Force, LHR were firing on all cylinders once again against the 2018 Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) Cup winners, Cunupia.
Meanwhile at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, the Army/Coast Guard combination maintained their unbeaten run in the Ascension’s top flight as they came from a goal down to defeat Police FC 3-1. Defence Force hold a slender one-point lead over Morvant Caledonia AIA in the 12-team table, although the Morvant/Laventille based outfit do have a game in hand.
Yesterday, at the Matura Recreation Ground, ‘Cale’ registered their sixth consecutive win in the competition as they hammered Matura by a 5-1 margin. Matura, coached by Roland Clarke, are finding life tough in the Ascension Invitational thus far, and find themselves second-from-bottom after conceding a hefty 21 goals in their last three matches.
At Phase 2 La Horquetta, although the final score line read a handsome 4-1 victory for the hosts, Rangers were made to fight tooth and nail for every inch of space by the visiting Cunupia outfit, which made for a high intensity battle.
“It was like a chess game,” said Rangers head coach Dave Quamina. “The game was a well-fought game. The opponents tonight, Cunupia FC, are a good team, who are very well-coached by coach Michael De Four. They were very organised [tonight].”
De Four and Quamina are long time pals, and from the onset Quamina and the LHR bench tried to get in the heads of their opponents with some friendly banter.
“Pressure him. He can’t kick, he can’t kick!” a voice from the LHR bench quipped, as Cunupia custodian Cleon John tried to negotiate a back pass in the early stages of the game. “He’s an old man now!”
John, a former Trinidad and Tobago international, moved quite gingerly on the day, and he delegated goal kick duties to his centre half Maestro Mensah. With the instructions from the bench ringing in their ears, the LHR team pressed the Cunupia defence hard, often forcing their opponents to retreat to a sluggish John.
That high press almost paid dividends inside the first 15 minutes, as the busy Kennedy Hinkson forced John into a save at the near post after the custodian casually tried to play out of the back.
In the 10th minute, John could do little to stop LHR defender Leslie Joel Russell from prodding in the game’s opening item though. After LHR attacker Tyrone Charles was fouled on top of the 18-yard box, skipper Jamaal Creighton drilled the ensuing free kick towards goal. John sprawled low to his left to keep out Creighton’s meaty drive but was hapless to stop Russell, who tapped in from two yards out.
LHR buzzed in the early going, as the speedy, wiry attacking duo of Kadeem Corbin and Jomoul Francois, along with energetic full back Ross Russell Jr, gave the opposition beans with their movement down the left flank. Francois ought to have scored in the 13th minute too, but he sent an angled left-footed shot into the side netting while under duress from opposing midfielder Dwane James.
LHR’s raids down the left were so constant that De Four swapped his wing backs in the 17th minute, as right back Tevin Mungo switched places with veteran utility player Noel Williams.
Cunupia assistant coach Trey Hart tried to explain his team’s handling of the early LHR barrage.
“We knew how Rangers were going to come out and we knew how they were going to try and play—through their wing backs and overlap,” Hart told Wired868. “They tried to pin us down in our half as much as possible so we tried to deal with the issue by dropping off one of our wingers and wing backs to close them down when they overlapped.”
The strategy initially looked like a stroke of genius as, in the 27th minute, Mungo set up the equalizer with a lovely floated ball to Cunupia captain and star Kevon ‘Showtime’ Woodley. Usually possessing a velvet touch, Woodley’s receipt of Mungo’s entry pass saw him clumsily bump into LHR goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel before bundling the ball home. Clumsy or not, the goal stood and Cunupia were back in the contest.
Woodley, one of the best post-up strikers in the local game these days, started in a number 10 role and dropped deeper into midfield, as the game went on, as he tried to orchestrate the Cunupia attack alongside James.
“It is difficult [to say] what Showtime’s best position for us,” Hart said. “We try to prepare for every game differently. Today, we needed him in the centre to try and control the game because of his skill.”
Apart from his close range first half finish and a 33rd minute effort which boomed over bar, Woodley rarely got opportunity to use his skill and physical presence in threatening areas—something Quamina was grateful for.
“Showtime is an excellent player so we tried to neutralise him,” Quamina said. “I think he’s a much underrated player in Trinidad and Tobago football. He caused us problems tonight and we were lucky at times.”
After Samuel made a sharp save to his right to deny Cunupia flanker Hakeem Legall in the 48th minute, LHR restored their lead in the 53rd minute through a cheeky flicked Francois finish off a Corbin cross. The Cunupia players and staff were livid though, as referee Rashby McPhie allowed play to continue although their defender Kadeem Graham was motionless on the ground after a collision with opposition skipper, Creighton.
“I think we tried as much as we could to close down all the variables but unforeseen errors—be it refereeing errors or our inexperience to deal with the refereeing errors or perceived errors—cost us most of the game,” Hart said. “We struggled to keep our emotions out of the game. I think that’s down to our inexperience and I think that’s why tournaments like these are so important for teams such as us, as we try to get more experience for the players.”
If Cunupia were distracted, LHR were on business. The hosts went 3-1 up in the 63rd minute after Corbin collected a floated ball behind the defence by Hinkson and rounded John to calmly slotting away.
“I don’t think we dealt with that situation well and we played into the next team’s hands by playing over-aggressive as a result of the refereeing errors,” Hart said.
In fact, Mungo and Woodley were fortunate to stay on the pitch after putting down some crunching tackles right under McPhie’s keen eye.
The 23-year-old Corbin, a 2014 Caribbean Cup champion with the National Under-20 Team, was almost unplayable on the night. His approach was direct, his movement was clever and his decision making wasn’t too bad either.
In the 73rd minute, Corbin created his second goal of the encounter as he played a sweet through pass for an overlapping Russell Jr, who smashed a left-footed shot across John and into the far corner.
Maybe 4-1 slightly flattered the hosts but Cunupia paid heavily for lapses in concentration and their failure to shore up their leaky right side. Quamina suggested that their generally free-scoring approach is no accident.
“We try to focus most of our drills or training sessions on scoring and finishing,” he said.
Cunupia, like Matura before them, could testify to the effectiveness of that approach.
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers (4-3-3): 1.Glenroy Samuel (GK); 18.Jevon Morris, 5.Leslie Joel Russell, 77.Samuel Delice, 17.Ross Russell Jr; 23.Kennedy Hinkson (15.Keron Cummings 71), 6.Kevon Goddard, 8.Jamal Creighton (captain); 11.Jomoul Francois (12.Caleb Sturge 81), 10.Tyrone Charles (24.Kishon Hackshaw 46), 45.Kadeem Corbin (13.Jameel Antoine 90+3).
Unused Substitutes: 20.Jabari St Hillaire (GK).
Coach: Dave Quamina
Cunupia FC (4-2-3-1): 1.Cleon John (captain); 15.Tevin Mungo, 3.Kadeem Graham, 18.Maestro Mensah, 5.Noel Williams (2.Kaleb Douglas 77); 7.Stephen Julien, 20.Dwane James; 21.Mikheil Peters (22.Javed Elcock 77), 19.Kevon Woodley (captain), 11.Hakeem Legall; 10.Michael Yaw Darko (9.Lashawn Roberts 66).
Unused Substitutes: 6.Darion Thomas, 23.Darieon Bernard.
Coach: Michael De Four
Referee: Rashby McPhie
Wired868 Man of the Match: Kadeem Corbin (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers)
Division One results
(Friday 23 August)
FC Santa Rosa 3 (Osei Sandy 44, John-Paul Rochford 49, Kevon Cornwall 89 pen), Guaya United 1 (Akeil Paul 85) at Arima Velodrome;
(Saturday 24 August)
Police FC 1 (Jameel Perry 46), Defence Force 3 (Darius Ollivierra 57, Jameel Cooper 76, Reon Moore 78) at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers 4 (Leslie Russell 10, Jomoul Francois 52, Kadeem Corbin 63, Ross Russell Jr 73), Cunupia FC 1 (Kevon Woodley 28) at La Horquetta;
Matura ReUnited 1 (Brendon Figuera 82), M’vt Caledonia AIA 5 (Joshua Sylvester 14, Shem Clauzel 28, Radanfah Abu Bakr 45+2, Lukas Risto 71, Sedale McLean 90+4 pen) at Matura Recreation Ground.
(Sunday 25 August)
Prison Service FC v QPCC, 4pm, YTC, Arouca;
Club Sando v San Juan Jabloteh, 4pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium Training Field;
(Tuesday 27 August)
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers v Guaya United, 6pm, La Horquetta.