Speyside High School jumped to the eighth spot in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division standings after defeating Trinity College East (TCE) by a 2-1 margin in Trincity Saturday afternoon.
The visitors opted for a direct style of counter-attacking football, and goals either side of halftime by Nicholas Sanchez and Adriel George propelled them to their second win of Premier Division campaign.
Elsewhere, Naparima College (14 points) could only extend their lead atop the Premier Division table to two points, after they relinquished a 2-nil lead, settling for a 2-2 draw away to Pleasantville Secondary.
Meanwhile, in Maraval, St Anthony’s (13 points) continued their ripping scoring form, hammering Trinity College Moka by a 5-1 margin to leapfrog 2017 Premier Division champions, Presentation College San Fernando, and assume the second spot. The ‘Pres Lions’ do have a game in hand on their fierce southern rivals, though. They will be itching to make up lost ground when they resume Premier Division action.
Demoted in their two Premier Division campaigns to date, Speyside have had altogether different battles. The Tobago outfit had an unforgettable start to the 2019 season too, suffering heavy defeats to Malick Secondary (5-0) and St Anthony’s College (7-1) respectively. Since then, though, the ‘Country Boys’ have bounced back admirably with a victory over San Juan North Secondary and a draw with Trinity College Moka.
And Saturday, before a modest but passionate ‘Trinity Blue Hawks’ fan base, Speyside continued that mini resurgence as they battled hard, rode their luck and eventually came away from the Trinity College East compound with three points.
Speyside technical director, Kerry Lynch, commended his team for their combative performance.
“The two heavy defeats against Malick and St Anthony’s weren’t a true reflection of the real ability of the team,” Lynch told Wired868. “Once we are able to navigate the beginning of the game and the beginning of the second half properly, we’re better able to manage games going along […] against St Anthony’s, we conceded four goals inside the first 12 minutes and the second half began badly also. That was just an area where we were lacking concentration.”
Photo: Trinity East goalkeeper Aidan Hayes (left) attempts to punch the ball clear during SSFL action against Speyside High at Trincity on 28 September 2019.
(Copyright Kerlon Orr/CA-Images/Wired868)TCE started brightly, and with the recent losses still fresh in the memory, Speyside coach Kervon George cut an anxious figure as he continually got off the bench to bark instructions to his team. TCE’s tricky winger Terrell Wiley was at the heart of every chance TCE created in the early stages, as his mazy runs from open play and short corners proved problematic for the opposing defence. Unfortunately, TCE’s finishing left a lot to be desired.
“The number of chances we had, we didn’t even deserve to draw this game,” TCE coach, Michael Grayson, told Wired868. “We were in total control of this game. We had chance after chance after chance. There seems to be something wrong technically or mentally. There’s definitely something wrong.”
It was TCE’s second straight game that was broadcast live on Digicel Sportsmax and they also wasted a number of chances in their 3-0 defeat to the ‘Westmoorings Tigers’ on Wednesday 25 September.
“Maybe we can’t play on TV,” Grayson said cheekily. “This is the second game that Sportsmax is covering. Thank God we don’t have any more games to play on TV.”
TCE midfielder Daejean Windsor and attacker Jeremiah Williams were both guilty of missing presentable chances after smart play by Wiley inside the first 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Williams inexplicably headed wide while unmarked in the six-yard area in the 22nd minute after his namesake, Isaiah Williams, put in a lovely cross from the left.
But as far as misses go, the worst was yet to come.
Grayson said: “The finishing was horrible. We worked on those very same areas yesterday and we had no problem. Today, it’s a whole different story.”
While the hosts tried to align their shooting compass with Kadeem Joseph’s goal frame, the Country Boys showed glimpses of their own attacking nous on the other end.
In the 14th minute, TCE were warned of Speyside’s threat on the counter when workmanlike flanker C’el Toppin slotted past goalkeeper Aidan Hayes after a nice exchange down the left with attacker Ronaldo Samuel.
Toppin was ruled offside, but the ease with which Speyside’s combination play unlocked the TCE defence had to be a worry for Grayson.
As Lynch predicted, his team started quite sluggishly. But once they settled into the contest, the likes of George, Samuel, Sanchez and Toppin looked capable of doing some damage.
In the 39th minute, Sanchez, a diminutive and nippy attacker, struck the bar after central defender Jonathan Thomas drove a dangerous set piece into the heart of Hayes’ penalty area. Five minutes later, Thomas showed off his powerful right foot once more as he whistled a long-range effort just wide of the mark after robbing Williams (J) of possession in the middle of the park.
In the 45th minute, the deadlock was broken, though, as Sanchez nonchalantly passed the ball past Hayes and into the net after working a sweet exchange with George down the left. It was almost a carbon copy of Toppin’s disallowed item, as the visitors sucked in the TCE defence with a handful of short passes in midfield before releasing the open runner.
This time, the assistant referee’s flag didn’t go up, and the Country Boys stunned the home crowd into silence.
In the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time, Williams (I) submitted his entry for ‘miss of the season’. After Joseph stopped a meaty effort from TCE flanker Jovonn Gomes following yet another short corner, he shot over the bar from a few feet out.
Not to be upstaged, Gomes entered the ‘miss of the season’ race in the 55th minute, when he shot wide of an empty net after rounding the lanky Joseph. Upon collecting a precise Williams (I) through pass, Gomes sidestepped the onrushing custodian before comically scoffing his shot wide of the mark after he and Wiley appeared to get in each other’s way.
The home supporters couldn’t believe what they were witnessing.
After two luckless seasons in the Premier Division, Speyside were certainly riding their luck in Trincity, and they were not about to let a golden opportunity escape their grasps.
“I would say that this year, the group is showing much more fight,” Lynch said. “In difficult periods, we’re better able to manage them and not concede during that period. And as the game wears on we are able to capitalize on errors that the opposition might be making. And even the set-piece plays, we are able to capitalize on them. I would say that the team is a lot more concentrated and I’m hoping we can continue in that vein.”
With Thomas, Speyside definitely have a dead ball weapon, as the centre half gets the right amount of pace and swerve on his deep deliveries. Hayes possibly still gets nightmares from Kaihim Thomas’ sterling free kick on 25 September, and the TCE custodian probably doesn’t want to see another Thomas standing over a dead ball anytime soon.
Grayson mentioned that Hayes is a bit reluctant to come off his line during some set-piece scenarios, and he and TCE paid the ultimate price in the 58th minute when George rose majestically at the back post to head home another dangerous set piece from Speyside’s Thomas.
Speyside are still not convincing at the back, though. TCE caught their defence flat way too often, leaving Joseph on an island on many occasions. However, on the opposite end of the pitch, there is quality in the Speyside ranks, and George and Sanchez look particularly promising with their combination plays and ability to play between the lines.
“I’d say, George and Sanchez, they have the ability to reach the national level,” Lynch said. “Once we keep them fit and focused, their partnership in the middle of the park will bode well for us […] once they continue their good link-up play; they could really pose a serious threat to defences in the Premier Division.”
The TCE faithful were still dreaming of a comeback, and when substitute Jemaul Ashing scrambled home from close range in the 90th minute, it appeared as though coach Grayson’s outfit would be able to salvage a point.
However, the hosts would go on to rue all their wasted chances, slumping to 11th spot in the Premier Division table in the process.
“If you don’t take your chances the other team will take theirs,” Grayson said. “That’s the age-old thing in football. That’s the bottom line.”
With the scalps of eastern schools San Juan North and TCE now firmly under their belts, Lynch is hoping that Speyside can spring a few more surprises in their bid to stay up in the Premier Division this season.
“If we could stay in the top half of the table I’d be extremely happy about that,” Lynch said. “Having been relegated twice, if we stay up this year some would deem that a successful season. So we’re even trying to spring surprises by staying in the top half of the table.”
Up next on the agenda for Speyside is a duel with ‘Pres’, who have the Tobago-born duo of Kassidy David and Jaiye Sheppard in their ranks. A result against the southern giants will certainly make the SSFL stand up and take notice.
The Country Boys have arrived.
Trinity College East (4-2-3-1): 22.Aidan Hayes (GK); 16.Zachary Baird, 4.J’Hayden Sealy, 7.Kishaun Charles (15.Riley Hill halftime), 20.Elijah Bain; 6.Isaiah Williams, 8.Romario Mahabir (captain); 14.Jovonn Gomes (17.Jaheim Faustin 57) 12.Daejean Windsor (21.Jemaul Ashing 68), 10.Terrell Wiley; 19.Jeremiah Williams.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Nicholas Thomas (GK), 9.Isaiah Edwards, 11.Matthais Hinkson, 18.Adriel Clarke.
Coach: Michael Grayson
Speyside High School (4-3-2-1): 22.Kadeem Joseph (GK); 4.Kern McDonald (18.Kiyel Dalyrymple 21 ([3.Ronaldo Alleyne 87]), 12.Dionys Carrington, 17.Jonathan Thomas, 19.Juvani Thomas; 6.Deleon Beckles, 10.Adriel George, 8.Jelanie James; 9.Ronaldo Samuel (20.Kael Moore 87), 11.C’el Toppin (captain); 7.Nicholas Sanchez.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Keydany Alleyne (GK), 2.Kenan Baptiste 13.Moses Bernard, 16.Deandre St Hillaire.
Coach: Kervon George
Referee: Timothy Derry
Wired868 Man of the Match: Adriel George (Speyside High School)
Photo: Speyside High midfielder Jelanie James (left) tries to keep the ball from Trinity East midfielder Romario Mahabir during SSFL action at Trincity on 28 September 2019.
(Copyright Kerlon Orr/CA-Images/Wired868)SSFL Premier Division Results
(Saturday 28 September)
Trinity East 1 (Jemaul Ashing 68), Speyside Secondary 2 (Nicholas Sanchez 45, Adriel George 58) at Trincity;
Carapichaima East 2 (OG 8, Keilon Burnett 88), Malick Secondary 1 (Jabari Williams 38) at Carapichaima;
Pleasantville Secondary 2, Naparima College 2 (OG, Jabari Lee) at Pleasantville;
QRC 0, San Juan North 4 (Daniel Best, Renaldo Boyce ) at QRC;
Trinity Moka 1 (Jardel Mitchell) St Anthony’s College 5 (Kai Phillip , Kaihim Thomas) at Moka;
St Mary’s College 1 (Abdul-Quddoos Hypolite pen), St Augustine Secondary 1 (Kiel Lopez) at Serpentine Road;
East Mucurapo 2 (Daniel David, Aaron Roberts), St Benedict’s College 0 at Mucurapo Road;
Presentation (San F’do) are on a bye