Defending SSFL Premier Division champions, Naparima College, are two triumphs away from retaining their title after a 0-0 draw with Presentation College (San Fernando) in the latest edition of the south derby at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella this afternoon.
‘Naps’ have 30 points from 12 matches with two outstanding fixtures against San Juan North Secondary and Queen’s Royal College. However, the ‘Pres Lions’ have 26 points from 11 matches. The only way for Naparima to be sure of the 2019 title—which would be their fourth league success in the Premier Division’s six year history—is to remain perfect.
“The guys have to fight through the remaining two games,” said Naparima head coach Angus Eve, “because if you want to be champions, then you gotta feel the pain.”
Eve’s team have not lost a match since the 2017 season in an unprecedented run of form. A win for Presentation, especially as they have a game in hand, would have blown the race open in the final stretch, but Pres head coach Shawn Cooper believes his young team have already exceeded expectations this season. Cooper agreed with his counterpart, Eve, that a draw was a fair result on the day.
In the east, title rivals St Anthony’s College slipped up mightily against San Juan North, suffering a 4-0 loss but still remain second in the standings with 26 points from 12 matches.
At the other end of the table, the demotion of St Mary’s College was finally confirmed as a 4-0 loss to East Mucurapo hammered the final nail in their coffin. However, Trinity College Moka, who seem destined to share their fate, showed that there was still life left after they fought to claim a 3-1 victory over St Augustine Secondary.
That win, coupled with wins for Malick Secondary and St Benedict’s College over QRC and Carapichaima East, means that Speyside Secondary have been dragged precariously back into the relegation dogfight with Trinity College East and Trinity Moka.
Eve, though, is far from ready to count unhatched chickens after a bruising matchup with fierce rivals Presentation.
“We’re now in crunch time. There is no real shuffling the pack anymore […] the guys have to fight through,” Eve told Wired868. “I thought we played well and the two teams cancelled out each other in a very technically and technical game.”
In front of the customary thousands of emphatic supporters, the two juggernauts of the south played out a tense and cagey affair dominated by half chances.
Streams of fans flooded the stands at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium to create one of the best football atmospheres in local football. If you have never been to a Naps/Pres game, you are definitely missing out. The pulsating sounds of opposing rhythm sections announced the start of a match where Pres had the better of the opening exchanges.
Ackeel ‘Hulk’ Jacob operated a bit deeper than usual and used his physicality to full effect by breaking up Naparima’s midfield. It was a trick that seemed to be reaping early rewards but the visitors were the first ones to come close to the opener.
Isa Bramble—who scored a brilliant hat-trick in his last game—floated in a free kick from the left. Shoaib Khan made a near post run and narrowly missed making a connection, but Declan Marcelle, following right behind him, appeared to get a feather of a header as the ball glanced just wide of the far post with the goalkeeper well beaten.
Pres Lions then mustered a chance of their own with Hulk once again being at the centre of the action. Aleem Barclay slipped a pass forward to Hulk who took it in his stride. He then made an extra yard and fired a shot that forced Levi Fernandez into a smart save.
Fernandez was thanking his lucky stars for his next save, though.
In a test of height and power, Jardel Sinclair stole a march on Tyrike Andrews and the imposing centre half scythed down the attacker, earning himself a yellow from the referee.
From the resulting free kick, Luke Charles stood ready from 5 yards out but mistimed his jump and the ball fell calmly for Fernandez to gleefully smother.
It was at that moment that the Presentation College faithful turned to a bit of superstition to give their Lions extra impetus.
It is closer to Christmas than Easter, but with the rhythm section pounding away, Pres supporters began tossing a Naparima College boblee back and forth. Whatever cutting edge invention they lacked on the field, they certainly found it in the stands.
The formula didn’t seem to have the desired effect, unfortunately. After the half-time interval, forward Seon Shippley deflected a poor clearance backwards and onto the Pres’ crossbar with goalkeeper Isaiah Williams scrambling to get back in time.
Eve’s half-time re-tinkering also meant a greater threat from his ace Bramble. Not given much freedom to run with the ball in the first half, Eve instructed the lanky attacker to drop a bit deeper and take the ball on the half turn before then running at the opposing defence.
Bramble gave Hulk and company some warning signs with his running power before he was hacked down 27 yards out in the 70th minute.
It was the perfect position for a left footer and, having just stepped off the bench, 2018 SSFL MVP Mark Ramdeen’s eyes lit up.
“Let’s go Marky!” shouted the Naparima supporters.
He steadied himself and had a crack.
Bang! Off the crossbar!
Isaiah Williams appeared to get possibly the slightest of touches to push the shot onto the frame but there was no denying the brilliance of his follow up save.
Tyrike Andrews was first to react to the rebounded free kick and headed the ball across the face of the goal towards Nathaniel Perouse at the back stick. Under pressure, he flung his boot to force the ball over the line. It seemed like a certain goal but for the heroics of Williams. The Pres custodian stretched out his left arm and somehow, from point blank range, was able to block Perouse’s effort.
“The game is about moments. When you have your moment, you have to do what you could do to score and they didn’t score,” said Cooper. “That is what [Williams] is in the goal post for!”
He added: “I think a lot of people weren’t expecting us to stand up to them like this this afternoon, but I think tactically we were prepared for them … [Naparima] are a quality team and have all their names from last year, and you saw that we matched them toe-to-toe here this afternoon.
“[Our] squad is still developing and learning to play at this high level, and I think that we are punching above our weight … It just augurs well for our development.”
Development aside, Presentation are still mathematically in the title hunt, but Naparima know that the trophy is theirs to lose.
Results in the next round are likely to determine who rises and who falls.
(Teams)Presentation San F’do (4-1-4-1): 1.Isaiah Williams (GK); 2.Nigel Carraby, 5.Justin Cornwall, 3.Luke Charles, 6.Zion Allen; 15.Aleem Barclay (C); 17.Nkosi Charles, 10.Ackeel Jacob, 9.Jaiye Sheppard, 20.Naeem Bisnath (13.Dantaye Gilbert); 16.Jardel Sinclair (11.Adica Ash).
Head Coach: Shawn Cooper
Naparima College (4-2-3-1): 1.Levi Fernandez (GK) (C); 5.Atiba Lewis, 4.Tyrike Andrews, 2.Thaj Neptune, 12.Asukile Christopher; 8.Kodel Frontin, 6.Shoaib Khan; 19.Isa Bramble (14.Molik Khan), 17.Nathaniel Perouse (9.Ezekiel Kesar),10.Decklan Marcelle (7.Mark Ramdeen); 20.Seon Shippley.
Head Coach: Angus Eve
Wired868 Man of the Match: Isaiah Williams (Presentation)
SSFL Premier Division Results
(Wednesday 23 October)
QRC 0, Malick Secondary 2 (Jabari Williams, Nickell Alexander) at QRC;
Presentation (San F’do) 0, Naparima College 0 at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
San Juan North 4 (Kedell Jones, Renaldo Boyce, Daniel Best ), St Anthony’s College 0 at Bourg Mulatresse;
Carapichaima East 1, St Benedict’s College 2 (Akeem Mason, Gesiah Bishop) at Carapichaima;
East Mucurapo 4 (Jaheim Patrick 12, Zion McLeod 60, 76, Terriq Martin 87), St Mary’s College 0 at Mucurapo Road;
St Augustine Secondary 1, Trinity Moka 3 (Keishaughn Prider-Williams, Jaheim Marshall, Temesgn Tezera) at St Augustine;
Pleasantville Secondary 0, Trinity East 0 at Pleasantville;
Speyside Secondary are on a bye
(Saturday 26 October)[All games kick off at 3.30pm]
St Anthony’s College v Carapichaima East at Westmoorings;
St Augustine Secondary v East Mucurapo at St Augustine;
Malick Secondary v Presentation (San F’do) at Serpentine Road;
Naparima College v San Juan North at Lewis Street;
Speyside Secondary v St Mary’s College at Speyside;
Trinity Moka v Trinity East at Moka;
St Benedict’s College v Pleasantville Secondary at Mannie Ramjohn;
QRC are on a bye.