Fatima College dished out a footballing lesson to the visiting Speyside High School today in the form of a thumping 8-nil win in 2022 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division action at Mucurapo Road.
Fatima have now played five games in the truncated Premier Division season, and their draw against St Benedict’s College in the opening match day was the only time they left the field without all three points.
This Saturday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, St Benedict’s and defending champions Naparima College meet in a crucial Group A clash to decide which school advances to the “Big 4” competition.
There is less anxiety within the ranks of coach Hutson “Baba” Charles’ Fatima squad, as their remaining group engagements are far more straightforward.
And, in rainy and sluggish conditions, they laid down another marker of their potential and gave a wonderful anniversary gift for a Trinidad and Tobago football icon.
“Today is my 31st anniversary [and] I asked them for that type of performance in the last training,” Charles told Wired868, with a smile almost as wide as his team’s margin of victory. “I said today is my anniversary and I need a victory. So most of the guys when they scored, they came and said happy anniversary coach.”
A candlelight dinner or afternoon at the spa might be the preferred manner of marking an anniversary for most. But Charles could hardly be happier than he was at the sidelines, as he punched the air in jubilation with almost every goal scored by the hosts.
The plan, Charles indicated, was to hit the ground running and catch the Tobago “Country Boys” unawares. So said, so done. Fatima were three goals clear by the 25th minute and the result looked to be a foregone conclusion even before then.
Fatima’s passing was slick, precise, calculated and uncomplicated—and Speyside had no answer to it. To say the visitors were played off the park is an understatement, National Under-20 goalkeeper Triston Edwards barely had to move a muscle between the Fatima uprights.
The rout started in the 12th minute, as left winger Chaim Williams slid in to convert off a cross from his captain Christian Bailey, who was operating on the other flank.
Central defender Jaden Williams made it 2-nil in the 17th minute with a thumping header from a left side corner by midfield playmaker Aidan DeGannes.
DeGannes added the third himself, as he sweetly stroked home a left-footer from close range after Bailey ghosted past opposing full back Quinton Brooks to put in another wicked cross from the right.
Bailey, DeGannes and Williams number among the seven Fatima players used today who are in Trinidad and Tobago’s national youth pool at either Under-20 or Under-17 level, according to Charles.
If the top two spots in Group A boil down to goal differential, Fatima ensured they would not miss out, as they never let up on Speyside custodian Andre Fraser.
Fatima right back Jesse Hospedales spent much of the opening 45 minutes providing ammo to his captain, Bailey, down the wing. But left back Alijah Nunes stole the show with arguably the goal of the match in the 54th minute, as he rocketed a left-footer into the top corner after a right side DeGannes cross caused Speyside all sorts of worries in the penalty area.
“That’s the football we play—that’s the type of football I love to play,” said Charles. “I don’t like the long ball; I like to play the ball on the park and play the game proper. If we are blocked on one side, we have patience to come on the other side.
“I think the guys did a marvelous job of it today.”
On the hour mark, midfielder Khiba Romany added a sixth as he tapped in at the back stick while Justin Alcantara and substitute Jose Attong also scored from close range to round off an emphatic display for Fatima.
At present, Fatima and Benedict’s head the Group A table with 13 points each, although Benedict’s have the superior goal differential of +27 in comparison to Fatima’s +24.
The Randolph Boyce-coached St Benedict’s team certainly enjoyed themselves against the “Green Machine” of St Augustine today, as they handed them a 14-1 beating—equaling the biggest margin of victory in the current Premier Division season.
It is saying something that Naps’ 4-0 win over St Anthony’s College today could somehow be seen as “mundane”.
With wins over Carapichaima East Secondary and St Anthony’s kickstarting their 2022 Premier Division campaign, Speyside have since hit a stumbling block in Group A in the fearsome trio of Benedict’s, Naps and Fatima—in that order.
Over those three games, Speyside conceded a whopping 18 goals without finding the back of the net themselves. Today, they barely offered a “Hail Mary” towards Edwards in the Fatima goal, with a wayward 12th minute volley by Jarlon Toppin being the lone effort that really stuck in the memory bank.
The 18 year-old Edwards had such a comfortable day that he may have been able to join his school’s rhythm section in the stands and still keep his clean sheet.
Speyside coach Ako George admitted that they showed their hosts too much respect on the day.
“Coming up against Fatima, we showed them their respect—I think we showed them a bit too much respect,” George told Wired868. “We sat off a bit trying to preserve that clean sheet early on in the game. It didn’t turn out as planned.”
After a pair of Williams netted for Fatima within the first 17 minutes, George’s plans were torn to shreds.
“We had conversations about expecting them to get crosses in and shoot from distance based on how we wanted to set up,” George said, as he explained why his Speyside team sat so deep in the early stages. “But unfortunately, sometimes you plan and you can’t execute. I guess I’ll take some stick for that because I need to get the guys ready a lot earlier in the game to deal with such circumstances.”
The visitors did contribute a pair of talking points in the second half though, with Brooks and fellow defender Nigel Burnett fortunate to only escape with yellow cards after lunging tackles on Attong and Williams (Chaim) respectively.
“Ref, ref!” Charles shouted, as he tried to get referee Timothy Derry’s attention. “That’s a two-footed tackle!”
George might have hid his face when Brooks absolutely mowed down Chaim on the right flank in the 83rd minute. Speyside conceded eight, but on another day they could have ended the match with nine men as well.
George insisted that his charges will bounce back for their last two matches vs Pleasantville Secondary and the cellar-placed St Augustine.
“The games are at home and the conditions are way better than we have here in Trinidad,” said George. “We are looking to get maximum points from those games and see if we can get into the top four in the group. The two games that we won earlier, we never really got too high because we knew the season was a long season.
“And, the weather kinda changed our fortunes because you can’t really bring a knife to a gunfight and that’s what we have been doing for the last two games where we conceded a lot of goals.
“We have to be able to get proper footwear to go and play and deal with these sorts of conditions.”
Despite heavy back-to-back defeats, George sees no potential trouble with motivating his team going forward.
“The guys are very intrinsic in their motivation, so I don’t think it will be a difficult task to get them revved up to go again,” the Speyside coach said. “All in all, we have to take this one on the chin and go back to the drawing board.”
With six points to their name at present, Speyside should have enough in reserve to avoid the relegation drama this season. In contrast, Baba and Fatima are looking towards a more upward trajectory.
“We want to be in the last Big 4, with the ultimate goal of course to win the [Premier Division],” Baba said.” To do that, we have two other games which we have to win—that’s against St Augustine and St Anthony’s College. I told the guys and them that we need to take it one game at a time.
“Now that we get over this hurdle our next focus is against St Augustine on Saturday.”
As he celebrates his anniversary win, Charles can be pleased as punch with a thorough display from his Fatima team, who of course caught the eye of Naparima coach Travis Mulraine before the start of the League season.
“Today I thought we had total domination from start to finish. I must credit the boys and them for executing the game plan as they did,” Charles said. “It’s nice that they class Fatima as a team that people would want to beat and class us to reach where we’re at.”
At present, Naparima have 12 points—just one shy of the leaders. With Fatima, Naps and St Benedict’s in a league of their own in Group A, it might take a photo finish to decide which school advances to the Big 4.
Wired868 will maintain a keen eye.
Fatima College (4-3-3): 30.Triston Edwards (GK); 3.Jesse Hospedales, 4.Yohance Atherton (13.Isaiah Zamore 72), 6.Jaden Williams, 2.Alijah Nunes; 7.Khiba Romany, 8.Justin Alcantara (11.Logan Maingot 72), 10.Aidan DeGannes (17.Jose Attong 63); 33.Christian Bailey (captain) (16.Luke Correia 78), 9.Joshua Mason (15.Michael Chavez 66), 12.Chaim Williams.
Unused substitutes: 42.Tyrece Romain (GK), 5.Darius Jordan.
Coach: Hutson Charles
Speyside High (5-4-1): 22.Andre Fraser (GK); 17.Kaylon Baptiste (18.Khamani Alleyne 23), 12.Gabriel Parissiene (captain), 4.Nigel Burnett, 3.Adriel Dalrymple (Reyes Gray 63 [14.Tre Campbell 84]), 20.Quinton Brooks; 29.Nickel Williams, 11.Jaheim Gray, 10.Lenox Eastman (2.Milz Johnson 55), 9.Jaheim Trim; 7.Jarlon Toppin.
Unused substitutes: 1.Jaheim Thomas (GK), 13.Deonte Jack, 21.Shyon George.
Coach: Ako George
Referee: Timothy Derry
Wired868 Man of the Match: Aidan DeGannes
Today’s Premier League results
Fatima College 8 (Chaim Williams 12, Jaden Williams 17, Aidan DeGannes 25, Quinton Brooks own goal 53, Aliyah Nunes 54, Khiba Romany 60, Justin Alcantara 65, Jose Attong 71), Speyside High School 0 at Mucurapo Road;
St Benedict’s College 14 (Tarik Lee , Josiah Ochoa , Derrel Garcia , Jaden Grant , Nicholas Bobcome, Ephraim Brown), St Augustine Secondary 1;
Naparima College 4 (Andres France, Nathaniel O’Garro, Kanye Francis, Jabari Forbes), St Anthony’s College 1 at Lewis Street, San Fernando;
Pleasantville Secondary 3 (Tyrese Phillip, Daniel Jones, Antonio Allen-Noreiga), Carapichaima East 3 (Kirziah Mayers ) at Pleasantville.