Fatima College moved to second place in the Shell/FCB Big Five playoff competition after defeating Arima North Secondary by a 3-0 margin at Mucurapo Road this afternoon.
Relegated from the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division in the 2018 season, Fatima took an important step towards rejoining the top flight today, with goals either side of halftime by Andrew DeGannes and Alexi George. Conversely, Arima’s own chances of featuring in the 2020 Premier Division season look slim, as they fell to their second straight defeat in the playoff tournament.
Arima play Chaguanas North Secondary and Moruga Secondary in their remaining games, and coach Wayne Sheppard lamented that his injury-riddled team have no choice but to get a maximum six points from those two fixtures if they are to achieve their promotion goal. The ‘Dial Dynamos’ will have to show more hunger than they displayed today; they were out-hustled and outplayed by a cohesive Fatima outfit.
“We need two wins [from our last two games] if we are to get up to the Premier Division for next season,” said Sheppard, who spent a few seasons as Fatima head coach before leaving at the end of the 2018 season when the northerners were relegated. “[Fatima] were in the same situation as us. Both teams needed a win today and Fatima got it […] so now we have to gather ourselves and see if we could get six points from the last two games.”
In today’s other Big Five playoff encounter, Moruga Secondary all but booked their ticket to SSFL’s 2020 Premier Division party, as they whipped Signal Hill Secondary by a 3-nil margin in the south in a 2pm kick-off. Moruga heads the five-team table with seven points, while Fatima and Chaguanas North follow with four and three points, respectively.
Signal Hill, who also have a total of three points, sit in fourth, while the winless and battered Arima North Secondary bring up the rear.[sports-match template=”logos” match=”57433″]
If coach Sheppard and company are to rekindle Arima’s glory days, they will need a major turnaround in their two remaining fixtures. It has been a rough week for the boys from the Arima Old Road.
They tasted a 3-2 defeat to Signal Hill in their first Big Five playoff match last Saturday before being dumped out of the National Intercol competition by Manzanilla Secondary during the week. And today, even as skipper Caleb Morris soldiered on to the field with a heavy cast on his broken left hand, the visiting Arima team could not find the determination—or quality—to overcome their formidable hosts.
Sheppard summed up his team’s performance as ‘perplexing’. He said the intensity and physicality that they displayed during their Championship Division campaign was not replicated today.
“Today, I didn’t see the fight I’m accustomed to seeing from any of the players consistently,” Sheppard told Wired868. “I didn’t see that fight and I’m worried trying to find out where it went […] this was a perplexing performance at best. I can’t understand what went on with us.”
On the other hand, coach Hutson Charles’ Fatima unit played with poise and assurance, moving the ball smoothly with the likes of DeGannes and Zachery Welch in the midfield, while centre back Jaheim Aguilleira and the Fatima rearguard all put in solid displays. When they did not have possession, the hosts nullified the wing threat posed by the dangerous Daniel Warner and harried Arima into making silly mistakes.
Mistakes the visitors paid the ultimate price for.
“After watching Arima North in the last game they played against Signal Hill, I decided to set up a defensive pattern to counteract them,” Charles said. “Against Signal Hill, I realized they were trying to exploit the width offered by Warner. I think he’s a very good player and I told the boys to pay particular attention to him today.”
Charles continued: “I was telling them that we needed to get numbers behind the ball to force Arima to bring the ball out of the back. We didn’t want to be pushing too high up the pitch and have them playing balls over the top.”
The Arima defenders seemed unsure of themselves when presented with extra time on the ball, and they gifted a couple early chances to the hosts through sloppy passing and casual play in possession.
After a few early half chances were wasted by attackers Joshua Mason and Jordan Romany, George, Fatima’s tidy left back, opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a sweet finish past custodian Kedhar Williams, following a left side corner. Morris was off the field receiving treatment when George wheeled away in celebration. Sheppard may have missed his skipper’s calming presence in that instance.
Morris almost played a part in a swift Arima response when he floated a beautiful free-kick into the area just five minutes later. However, striker Khalil Francis failed to get a meaningful touch on goal after teammate Jesus De Lecia beat goalkeeper Jacob Camacho and struck the base of the post with a precise header.
It was one of the rare occasions that the Arima attackers got the better of the Fatima custodian, who made some fine saves in the second half and generally commanded his area with authority and confidence. And with Aguilleira operating like a brick wall in front of Camacho, it was going to take some doing to breach Fatima’s defences.
“The guys and they went out and executed really well. We had to get three points and I think the guys went out there and executed perfectly,” Charles said. “Sheppard knows the strengths and weaknesses of these players as he was here for the last three to four years, so we had to play a different kind of game.
“He would have expected us to come out to attack, attack, attack.”
Perhaps with a better measure of their opponents, the hosts did exactly that at the start of the second half as they came out with much vigour and an increased tempo. Inside the first 10 minutes of the second half, the bustling Romany had the chance to put the game to bed with a hat-trick of chances as Fatima raided down the left with purpose.
In one instance, Romany glanced a delicious header off the bar, while Williams produced a brilliant save with his feet in another. After Camacho pulled off a dramatic save with his feet at the other end to deny Warner from close range, Romany was able to breathe a bit easier as Fatima notched their second item through a penalty conversion.
Not for the first time in these Big Five playoffs, Arima shot themselves in the foot. Centre half Lasean Greene meekly gave possession away to Mason in the final third, and the masked attacker was then upended by the retreating Nicholas Franklyn as he made his way towards goal.
DeGannes ensured that Arima’s faux pas did not go unpunished, sweetly dispatching his spot kick and putting his team two goals ahead on the hour mark.
“We shot ourselves in the leg repeatedly. Two of the goals came from defenders being caught in possession,” Sheppard said. “There’s no need for any of my defenders to hold on to the ball. We don’t play that kind of football. We pass and move. That didn’t happen today.”
Franklyn’s day soon went from bad to worse; he turned into his own goal in the 83rd minute after a determined Mason whipped a dangerous, low ball across the face of Williams’ goal. The youngster buried his face in his t-shirt before he could be consoled by a teammate.
With an away game to Chaguanas North awaiting them in their next encounter, the Dial Dynamos will have to rebound quickly if they are to seriously reignite their promotion hopes.
“We are the walking wounded but that has nothing to do with what went on today,” Sheppard said. “If we get anything less than six points [from those two remaining games] it’s going to put us in a sticky situation.”
But with an injury count that’s seemingly rising by the minute, Arima would have to pull out all the stops if they are to feature in the SSFL’s top flight next year.
Contrastingly, Fatima can seal a 2020 Premier Division spot with a victory over Signal Hill on Saturday 16 November.
“Getting promotion is one of the goals my staff and I set before the start of the season,” Charles concluded. “This is just a small step in getting there. We haven’t reached there yet because we still have two away games to play. We’re going to Tobago next week and we’ll be hoping to get a positive result there.”
Fatima College (4-3-3): 1.Jacob Camacho (GK) (captain); 12.Christian Bailey, 5.Jaheim Aguilleira, 19.Aaron Moruf, 2.Alexi George (7.Christopher Syms 90+2); 10.Zachary Welch, 8.Andrew DeGannes, 22.Joshua Lewis (3.Aidan Dowden 77); 16.Joshua Mason, 9.Jordan Romany, 11.Jacob Ribeiro (21.Saeed Pompey Charles 79).
Unused Substitutes: 4.Matthew Newallo, 18.Giovanni Warner, 29.Jacob Castillo, 33.Azahrias Ali.
Coach: Hutson Charles
Arima North Secondary (4-1-4-1): 1.Kedhar Williams (GK); 12.Nicholas Franklyn, 4.Caleb Morris (captain), 3.Christopher Bartholomew (17.Jonathan Robinson halftime), 5.Lasean Greene; 6.Stephen Moore; 7.Daniel Warner, 10.Jesus De Lecia, 8.Jayden Moore, 16.Justin Modeste (11.Jemell Boatswain 85); 9.Khalil Francis (18.Ronaldo Rogers 70).
Unused Substitutes: 30.Isaiah Diaz (GK), 13.Keyel James, 14.Sanjay Ackool, 20.Emmanuel Hunte.
Coach: Wayne Sheppard
Referee: Gregory Guevara
Man of the Match: Zach Welch (Fatima College)
SSFL Big Five results
(Saturday 9 November)
Fatima College 3 (Alexi George 26, Andrew DeGannes 60 pen, Nicholas Franklyn own goal 83), Arima North Secondary 0 at Mucurapo Road;
Moruga Secondary 3 (Mont Zion Bain, Tyrique Lucas, Joshua Kesney), Signal Hill Secondary 0 at Moruga;
Chaguanas North Secondary are on a bye.
(Saturday 16 November)
Chaguanas North v Arima North, 3.40pm, Edinburgh 500;
Signal Hill v Fatima College, 3.40pm, Tobago;
Moruga Secondary are on a bye.