“Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward.”
Those words are what head coach Angus Eve will be thinking and trying to relay to his players as they look ahead to their final Caribbean Football Union Olympic qualifier against Suriname in Bassaterre on Monday.
T&T suffered a 5-2 beating at the hands of hosts St Kitts/Nevis in their second outing at Warner Park on Saturday night.
Eve made three changes to his starting team from the one that drew 1-1 with Cuba on Thursday. Goalkeeper Andre Marchan was replaced by Glenroy Samuel while he brought in two forwards in Shahdon Winchester and Jerrel Britto at the expense of midfielders Sean De Silva and Jayson Joseph. Forward Jamal Gay also kept his spot in the starting team.
Winchester scored T&T’s equalizer in the 27th minute. He collected a ball from Kevin Molino, shifted his man and unleashed a right footer in the net. The hosts had earlier gone ahead when Javiem Blachette struck with venom from outside the penalty box.
Both teams went into the half time interval leveled as T&T failed to settle and take charge of proceedings. And it got worse for them soon after the restart as Romaine Sawyers converted three minutes into the half to put the hosts 2-1 ahead.
T&T’s game didn’t get any better even though they manage to create chances. But like the first game, they failed to convert and the Kittitians were in a punishing mood. T&T defender Leslie Russell admitted afterwards: “We lost out shape in the second half and it cost us.”
One would hope that the one positive out of such a loss would be it allowing the players to experience that extreme bitterness of defeat so much so that they would absolutely want to ensure they never experience it again. And midfielder Joseph did say that his team was in deep despair.
“It’s a hurtful time for us but we have to regroup and try to correct our mistakes. I am praying that we can do better. We need to take on the next game like we did against Cuba and like we did in our matches at the Pan Am Games,” Joseph added.
English-born midfielder Sawyers arrived from the UK last week to join the St Kitts team and he made his journey worth it with his three goals against T&T. He is on contract with Premier League side West Bromwich Albion and was on loan with Port Vale earlier this year.
The 20-year-old beat Samuel again with a well taken goal in the 60th and Akiel Grier sent the home fans into a further frenzy with another properly executed crack from outside the area which left the T&T custodian hapless in goal.
Eve then introduced De Silva, Joseph and Trevin Caesar in the second half. De Silva would pull a goal back for T&T when Joevin Jones crossed into the box and a clearance fell for De Silva who made no mistake, drilling his effort into the corner with a one time shot.
But try as they did, T&T couldn’t reduce the deficit with Molino, Gay and Caesar also having a couple close chances on goal.
Eve’s post game reaction was quite straight forward.
“Looking at the game itself, we never got going,” Eve told TTFF Media.
“I thought we raised our intensity well against Cuba and not taking anything away from the other teams, Cuba were supposed to be the best team in the zone and we played well against them to come away with a result and should have won that game But tonight we did not execute well. Our marking and tracking in midfield and defence was poor.
None of their goals were really plays with any build ups as such. They had two well taken shots and we never closed them down. It just seems that our energy level wasn’t there and they were right up for the match.”
T&T (one point) can still advance as one of the two teams to the CONCACAF Final round with a win over Suriname (three points) along with a Cuban victory over St Kitts (three points) in Monday’s closing fixtures.
Cuba tops the group with four points at the moment but cannot afford to slip up against St Kitts if T&T gets a win in the opening game of Monday’s double header. They could however try to play for a draw which could send T&T home.
Eve made the point that his team has not had to come back from defeat this year and it will be true test of character for them on Monday.
“I haven’t come down on them moreso because we still have a final game to play. For the past year we’ve been playing at a high level and there must be a time when a team drops and unfortunately it happened against St Kitts. The challenge now is to motivate these guys and get them back into the right frame of mind.
Our players are a bit fatigued and I will make changes to the starting team. I wouldn’t have brought players here if I didn’t think they were incapable at this level. Hopefully we will be more hungry and show that pride in the national shirt and go out there and win the game by a couple goals or more to put some pressure on the second game on Monday,” Eve added.
Trinidad & Tobago: - Glenroy Samuel, Sheldon Bateau, Joevin Jones, Leslie Russell, Aquil Selby, Jeromie Williams, Mekeil Williams (Sean De Silva 83rd), Shahdon Winchester (Jayson Joseph 63rd), Kevin Molino, Jamal Gay, Jerrel Britto (Trevin Caesar 46th).
Coach: - Angue Eve.
St Kitts & Nevis: - Julani Archibald, Kendale Liburd (Yellow 89), Elvado Mitchum, Nile Walwyn, Romaine Sawyers, Devaughn Elliott (Zachary Getz 86th), Lawrence Jeffers, Akil Grier, Javiem Blanchette (Kevin Benjamin 77th), Travis Somersall (Tishan Hanley 63rd), Kadeem Lewis.
Coach: - Jeffrey Hazel (St Kitts).
Referee: - Rudolph Angela (Aruba).
Attendance: - 900.
P W T L GF GA GD Pts
1 Cuba 2 1 1 0 5 3 +2 4
2 St Kitts 2 1 0 1 5 3 +2 3
3 Suriname 2 1 0 1 3 4 -1 3
4 Trinidad & Tobago 2 0 1 1 3 6 -3 1