Substitute Seon Shippley scored in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time to gift three-time Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division winners, Naparima College, a nervy 2-1 victory over a plucky Malick Secondary outfit in Trincity this afternoon.
With the victory, ‘Naps’, who completed a League and National Intercol double in 2018, maintained their one-point lead over fierce rivals Presentation College (San Fernando), who hammered St Benedict’s College by a 4-nil margin at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
At the heavy Trinity College East grounds—which Malick used as their home venue due to their inability to get clearance for grounds within their Morvant/Laventille community—the former Northern powerhouse gave a decent account of themselves, as they frustrated Naparima for much of the 90 minutes with a stubborn defensive effort.
And when their burly centre half, Amir Simmons, cancelled out Nathaniel Perouse’s 79th-minute opener with a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time, the ‘Malick Blue Lions’ players and staff celebrated as though they had just won the Premier Division title.
However, it’s never quite over until the fat lady sings, and she was just clearing her throat when keeper Kahlil Oliver thwarted a close-range effort by Naparima midfielder Jabari Lee. As Shippley applied the finishing touch, glancing over to assistant referee Kareem McMayo to ensure that he was onside, she belted her tune at the highest decibels.
It was a bitter pill for coach Anthony Bartholomew and his Malick team to swallow. But gauging from today’s fighting effort and their previous victories over Speyside High School and Trinity College Moka, it’s clear that Malick have come prepared to tangle with the big boys.
“The guys are young in this thing so we were planning to come and feel out [Naparima] for the first five to ten minutes and see what they had,” Bartholomew told Wired868. “I felt we matched their talent, skill, everything. We weren’t coming with a mindset like we were afraid or scared of this great Naps they have been talking about. That had nothing to do with it.
“We had no intentions of backing down.”
With Bartholomew occasionally barking out orders from the dugout, and former Soca Warriors midfielder and Malick stand-out Densill Theobald throwing a keen eye from near the technical area, the Malick players certainly didn’t retreat in the face of the decorated Naps outfit.
Defensively, they were robust in the tackle and flung their bodies at many a goal-bound effort. Meanwhile Oliver, a former Trinity East student and National Under-15 player, offered them a safe pair of hands at the back.
On the offensive end—with Bartholomew still blooding several fresh faces into the setup—Malick’s attacking play was built around spurts of individuality as opposed to patient team build-ups.
One such individual talent is attacker Mamade Guerra, the nephew of Trinidad and Tobago international midfielder, Ataullah Guerra. The younger Guerra had his plate full with centre backs Tyrike Andrews and Thaj Neptune on the day, but he still managed to test opposing custodian Levi Fernandez with a pair of efforts in the first half.
“I thought Malick came and they fought hard,” said Naparima coach Angus Eve. “I think the win was well deserved but I also think Malick showed good fight and endeavour in the game.”
The southerners moved the ball patiently and smartly in the first half, as they tried to navigate Malick’s 5-3-2 shape, which saw the diminutive Isiah Haywood and skipper Nathaniel Barbour contesting every yard of space in midfield.
Naps did create some decent opportunities in the first period, with Lee and Perouse often being the architects. Lee used his mazy and controlled dribbling to break down the defence, while Perouse, a 2016 National Intercol winner with San Juan North Secondary, used wall passes and intricate through balls to try and unlock the compact Malick defence.
“I think once we got a hold of the ball and a hold of the surroundings, I thought there was only one team in the game to be fair,” Eve said.
Oliver made a few notable saves in the first half, the most impressive of which saw him denying Andrews with his feet from point blank range following a Lee corner in the 26th minute. The other saw him denying a sharp header from his former Trinity East schoolmate Jaden McKree.
As his players tested the wits of the Malick defence, Eve decided to test the psyche of the Malick bench.
“Give Theobald a shirt. Come on, do it right!” Eve shouted towards the direction of the Malick technical area, as Theobald tried to get his input across to the Malick players.
“Give him an official team shirt,” Eve continued, “I’ll give y’all more money if that’s a problem. Don’t do [Bartholomew] that.”
Soon, Eve was having banter with Malick supporters as well.
“The noise reach now, don’t worry,” said Eve, as he introduced Shippley and fellow attacker Isa Bramble from off the substitutes’ bench, just before the hour mark. “We don’t do things by guess here.”
Bramble and Shippley added impetus to the Naparima attack and their chemistry was almost infectious. Just two minutes after entering the fray, Bramble was denied by a wonderful last-ditch clearance by central defender Jonathan Clement, after rounding Oliver in the 55th minute.
Bartholomew seemed to have a card up his sleeve as well, as midfielder Jabari Williams injected some life into Malick’s play upon his insertion in the 61st minute. After a steady Malick build up in the 63rd minute, captain Barbour rocked goalkeeper Levi Fernandez’s crossbar with a powerful right-footed effort from outside the area.
“This is the noise Eve was talking about?” one Malick supporter quipped.
In the 78th minute, once again Bramble found himself with a golden opportunity after being played in over the top. This time, the striker took an age to shoot, eventually allowing Simmons to make a heroic block.
During the subsequent corner kick, Malick seemed to fell asleep and were duly punished. As Malick failed to clear the lines, midfielder Kodel Frontin beat the offside trap with a disguised pass towards Perouse, who took the pass in stride and blasted a powerful right-footer past Oliver.
Eve 1, Malick Supporters 0.
“We are not afraid to play the young guys,” said Eve, who has won half the League and Intercol titles on offer since the inception of the Premier Division in 2014. “We think we are developing right and once you are developing the right way you’ll get the results at the end of the day.”
At present, Naps are without 2018 SSFL MVP Mark Ramdeen and National Under-15 midfielder Jesse Molik Khan, who are both injured. But Eve is confident that his players can do a job regardless.
“We believe in the full squad,” said Eve. “We take it one game at a time. I don’t even know who we are playing in the next game.
“[…] I’ll go home now and analyse this game and see what we could do better and then I’ll have a look at the fixtures and then focus on the next game.”
Naparima looked to be heading to another routine win. However, just as Eve was beaming about his second half ‘noise’, referee John Barkley whistled for a penalty after Bramble and Barbour had an awkward coming together in the Naparima area in stoppage time.
Naparima were dumbfounded, the Malick bench was ecstatic, while substitute Donte Murrien could not find the courage to watch. Simmons sent Fernandez the wrong way from the spot to send the newly promoted team into ecstasy.
The officiating team indicated that a minimum of four minutes of injury time would be played. However, a stoppage for an injury to Guerra, as well as Malick’s prolonged celebration, might have added to Barkley’s count.
The extra time at the end of stoppage time turned out to be pivotal.
In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Lee was played in behind the defence and the diminutive midfielder was squared up by an onrushing Oliver. Not for the first time, the Malick custodian saved smartly but Shippley was jolly on the spot to sink Malick hearts.
Bartholomew and his technical staff were aggrieved, as they insisted Barkley allowed the stoppage time period to drag on for too long and suggested that Shippley was in an offside position.
“If the referee was to blow it when he said four minutes, we would have walked away with a point,” Bartholomew said. “We equalised in the final minute but the game went on… It real unfair. But you know what, God is the greatest. And greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.”
Bartholomew is adamant that Malick are not in the Premier Division to make up numbers and is intent on bringing back glory days for the Malick Blue Lions.
“My plan for the season was really to try and stay up [in the Premier Division],” said Bartholomew, who will welcome former Trinity East and Valencia Secondary star, Dwight Yorke, into his line-up for the next Premier Division match. “But with the quality of players that I have at my disposable right now, I don’t think the aim is to stay up anymore. I’m pushing everything at it.
“Malick has to stay up and we are aiming to win this competition.”
The Malick players will have to make themselves at home at venues along the East-West corridor though, as the SSFL executive deemed their Park Street Recreation Ground facility unfit for Premier Division action.
Bartholomew is displeased pleased about the situation and he likened the Park Street venue to the Speyside Recreation Ground where the Tobago school play their home matches
“The SSFL have said that we won’t be able to play in the Morvant/Laventille community because the Park Street Recreation Ground in Morvant isn’t fenced around and doesn’t have proper changing rooms,” Bartholomew said. “This is the same field where we have played our Championship Division games for the last few years. We played for three years on that field in the presence of police officers and it wasn’t a problem.
“Everybody was on football; football was the order of the day.”
With their own sponsorship row with the League now firmly behind them, Eve and his charges also want to get back down to business.
“Principal [Dr Michael] Dowlat and the school apologised for whatever infraction that we would have committed,” said Eve. “It wasn’t that we were trying to defraud the League in any way or bring the League into contention. I think it was a misunderstanding with communication and so we accepted the sanctions laid on us and accepted the fine.
“You would realise that we haven’t said anything negative. We have not tried to defend our position in anyway.”
Eve and company will do all in their power to defend their position on the field of play though, and wrestling the Premier Division title from their possession would be a mountainous task.
Malick Secondary (5-3-2): 1.Kahlil Oliver (GK); 9.Tirrel Ramsahai, 5.Joshua Stewart, 6.Jonathan Clement, 15.Amir Simmons, 18.Matthew Constantine; 12.Nathaniel Barbour (captain), 14.Isiah Haywood (23.Shaqim Gooding 83), 19.Zion Carpette (25.Donte Murrien 83); 11.Mamade Guerra, 10.Nickell Alexander (7.Jabari Williams 61).
Unused Substitutes: 3.Jahdell Aguillera, 16.John-Mark Morris, 17.Haile Farrell, 20.Kellon Lewis.
Coach: Anthony Bartholomew
Naparima College (4-4-1-1): 1.Levi Fernandez (GK); 5.Atiba Lewis, 2.Thaj Neptune, 4.Tyrike Andrews, 15.Marvin Waldron; 17.Nathaniel Perouse, 6.Shoaib Khan, 8.Kodel Frontin, 13.Jabari Lee (3.Chakim Guy 90+6); 9.Ezekiel Kesar (20.Seon Shippley 56); 18.Jaden McKree (19.Isa Bramble 53).
Unused Substitutes: 22.Keane Subero (GK), 16.Akil Johnson, 21.Nasean Duncan, 23.Isaiah Thompson.
Coach: Angus Eve
Referee: John Barkley
Wired868 Man of the Match: Nathaniel Perouse (Naparima College)
SSFL Premier Division
(Saturday 21 September)
Trinity College Moka 2, Speyside High School 2 (Deleon Beckles, Ronaldo Samuel) at Moka;
St Augustine Secondary 2 (Tyrese Spicer 78 FK, 81), Carapichaima East 2 ( Jaron Pascal, Emmanuel Corriera) at St Augustine;
San Juan North 1 (Malik Ferrier 21), Trinity East 1 (Jeremiah Williams 12) at Bourg Mulatresse;
Queen’s Royal College 1 (Nathaniel James), St Anthony’s College 2 at QRC;
St Benedict’s College 0, Presentation College (San F’do) 4 (Jaiye Sheppard, Aleem Barclay, Jardel Sinclair, Kassidy Davidson) at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
Malick Secondary 1 (Amir Simmons 90+3 pen), Naparima College 2 (Nathaniel Perouse 79, Seon Shippley 90+6) at Trincity;
St Mary’s College 0, Pleasantville Secondary 2 at Serpentine Road.
Mucurapo East are on a bye.
(Wednesday 25 September)[All games start at 3.30pm]
Presentation (San F’do) v Mucurapo East at Mannie Ramjohn;
St Mary’s College v Malick Secondary at Serpentine Road;
Speyside Secondary v QRC at Speyside;
Naparima College v St Augustine Secondary at Lewis Street;
San Juan North v Trinity Moka at Bourg Mulatresse;
St Anthony’s College v Trinity East at Westmoorings;
Carapichaima East v Pleasantville Secondary at Carapichaima;
St Benedict’s College are on a bye