The star-studded Terminix La Horquetta Rangers (LHR) outfit missed the chance to make up ground on the frontrunners in Division One of the Ascension Invitational Tournament last night, as they played to a goalless draw with Club Sando at Phase Two La Horquetta.
In their five Ascension matches to date, LHR have scored a whopping 21 goals. However, tellingly, those 21 goals have come against Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) opposition in Cunupia FC, Guaya United and Matura ReUnited.
In their two duels with Pro League opposition thus far, LHR have played to goalless stalemates, although coach Dave Quamina summed it up as a bad day at the office. Last night against the visiting Club Sando, LHR found great difficulty in breaking down their guests and could be considered fortunate after coming away with a point at the end.
“We came out to play football tonight, but we weren’t at our best,” Quamina told Wired868. “The guys really tried to win the game and the Club Sando team, coached by Mr Eve, is a very good team. We just have to take it step-by-step and train harder and go at it again.”
In their goalless draw against table-toppers Defence Force on 17 August, Army custodian Aaron Enill was the star of the show. He made a flurry of fine saves to keep LHR’s cadre of attacking players at bay. In Phase Two last night, Sando coach Angus Eve arguably stole the limelight, backing up his team’s stubborn defensive resistance with some playful jabs at the LHR coaching staff and supporters in the covered stands.
Eve was in his element, barking instructions for each of the 90 minutes, kicking every ball and chiming in on every 50-50 decision made by referee Gyasi McDonald.
Eve boasted that he picked up on LHR’s tactics through Wired868’s match reports, and he prepared for their attacking barrage accordingly. Sando sat deep, often leaving lone striker Nion Lammy as the sole player in the LHR half. And their compact and well-organized 5-4-1 formation nullified the wing threat posed by players such as Aikim Andrews, Kadeem Corbin and marauding fullback Ross Russell Jr for the most part.
“That’s international coaching for you,” said a cheerful Eve, having a playful exchange with Wired868 managing director Lasana Liburd at the end of the contest. “We dropped back, and we nullified their wing backs. I want you all to write that.”
For all of Sando’s defensive nous and organization, their direct play on the counter and their guile from set pieces saw them posing a good attacking threat as well.
“Just float it up and Trimmingham would go for it!” shouted Eve from the sidelines as his team lined up a left side free kick.
That strategy should have paid dividends in the 55th minute, but Sando midfielder Anthony Charles inexplicably headed over the bar from two yards out after centre half Josiah Trimmingham nodded a Nicholas Thomas set piece across the face of Jabari St Hillaire’s goal.
The 20-year-old St Hillaire made some key saves in the closing stages of the encounter, as Sando fashioned the better of the opportunities despite not having the most possessions.
St Hillaire palmed away a long-range effort by Charles in the 74th minute, while he also made smart saves to deny midfielder Kevon Williams and striker Shackiel Henry, who had a lively cameo off the bench for the visitors.
“A lot of people think possession is football and that’s not the case,” Eve said, explaining why his team dropped off and allowed LHR to dictate proceedings in non-threatening areas. “I got a match report on them, we know that they’d play with two up front, two quick men. Tyrone Charles would usually drop off for Jomoul to go in behind.
“We went with three centre halves today as a result and we played with two wing backs who nullified their wingers. It worked to perfection. When we gave up possession, we really had no problem. When they crossed our half, we didn’t give them anything, and I think we nullified them for the most part.”
The scout report probably did not tell Eve that Charles, a skillful and crafty attacker, would not be in action due to a concussion he sustained in LHR’s 7-nil thumping of Guaya on Tuesday night. And although he may not possess Charles’ hold up play and playmaking ability, with four senior appearances for Trinidad and Tobago to his name, Andrews isn’t too bad a replacement.
Sando’s backline adequately dealt with Andrews and company, though, and a strapping Trimmingham was particularly dominant in the air, dealing with crosses and long diagonals. Meanwhile, Thomas was keen to sniff out any danger and made key interceptions when necessary. Wing backs Jabarry Francis and Kemuel Rivers put in disciplined shifts and limited the space the LHR wide man had to operate in.
The four Sando midfielders who played in front the five-man backline arguably paid more attention to defensive duties on the night, and it made for a sturdy Sando wall that was just too much for the free-flowing LHR to surmount.
On the rare occasions that LHR did catch Sando on the counter, they failed to take full advantage. In the 48th minute, Sando goalkeeper Kelvin Henry made a brilliant point-blank save to deny Andrews at the end of a rapid LHR break, while Francois shot woefully wide from a tight angle in the 65th minute after picking off a poor back pass by Sando midfielder Jayson Joseph.
What did Quamina make of Sando’s defensive setup, which effectively stifled the likes of Andrews and Corbin, who were almost unplayable against Cunupia and Guaya?
Quamina said: “We just didn’t put away our chances. It had nothing to do with Club Sando’s team being attacking or defensive or vice versa. Football on the day, anybody could beat anybody. Club Sando is a very good team with a top coach and we take nothing away from them. We just have to go the drawing board and work harder and come back harder. That’s the bottom line.”
Field action aside, Eve showered praises on the Rangers for the work done on the TT$5.3 million facility at Phase Two La Horquetta. He also praised the Ascension Invitational Tournament.
“This tournament is playing an important role. The national coach is here, and this is the only opportunity for him to see players play. So it’s plugging the gap with the other leagues not being up and running right now. It’s just unfortunate that you really have nothing to play for in terms of [CONCACAF] Champions League qualification and all that.”
Eve certainly did not seem to be feeling any pressure.
On the other hand, LHR, who currently sit fourth in the 12-team table after amassing 11 points in five matches, may be feeling a bit of strain as they try to reel in fellow pre-tournament favourites Defence Force (19 points). As he returns to the famed drawing board, Quamina would hope that key players such as Charles, Keron ‘Ballpest’ Cummings and Hayden Tinto can shake off niggling injuries as LHR look to conquer Ascension.
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers (4-4 2): 20.Jabari St Hillaire (GK); 18.Jevon Morris, 5.Leslie Joel Russell, 77.Samuel Delice, 17.Ross Russell Jr; 23.Kennedy Hinkson (6.Kevon Goddard (halftime), 8.Jamaal Creighton (captain), 15.Keron Cummings (24.Kishon Hackshaw (halftime), 45.Kadeem Corbin (12.Caleb Sturge 82); 11.Jomoul Francois, 7.Aikim Andrews.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 13.Jameel Antoine.
Coach: Dave Quamina
Club Sando (5-4-1): Kelvin Henry (GK); 25.Jabarry Francis, 23.Nicholas Thomas, 5.Bevon Bass, 44.Josiah Trimmingham (captain), 6.Kemuel Rivers; 17.Kevon Williams (13.Shaqkeem Joseph 86), 21.Anthony Charles, 27.Jayson Joseph, 12.Michael Basdeo (10.Keron Cornwall 80); 15.Nion Lammy (9.Shackiel Henry 64).
Unused Substitutes: 4.Keron Bethelmy, 11.Akinola Gregory, 14.Kadeem Gittens, 16.Kareem Blake-Williams, 20.Tigana Sparks.
Coach: Angus Eve
Referee: Gyasi McDonald
Wired868 Man of the Match: Josiah Trimmingham (Club Sando)
Division One result
(Friday 30 August)
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers 0, Club Sando FC 0 at Phase Two La Horquetta Recreation Grounds;
(Sunday 1 September)
Cunupia FC v Prison Service, 4pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
Matura ReUnited v San Juan Jabloteh, 4pm, Matura Recreation Ground;
Guaya United v Morvant Caledonia AIA, 6pm, Guaya Recreation Ground;
Police FC v QPCC, 4pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium training field;
Defence Force v FC Santa Rosa, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium training field.