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Winchester earns T&T a stalemate against Guyana.
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For the second time in four days, Trinidad and Tobago were forced to come from behind in order to earn a share of the spoils, when they drew 1-1 with Guyana in their international friendly here Tuesday night.

The hosts trailed through Sheldon Holder’s 19th minute strike at the Ato Boldon Stadium before getting the equalizer on the hour mark courtesy of substitute Shahdon Winchester.

Last weekend, T&T needed goals in the last five minutes at the same venue to pinch a 2-2 draw with an impressive Grenada.

Yet again, T&T’s start was less than flattering as England-based midfielder Kadell Daniel whipped in a cross which Holder rose to nod past Marvin Phillip.

Nathaniel Garcia came close to finding the equalizer when he struck the uprights on the half-hour mark but Guyana went to the break with a precious 1-0 lead.

T&T pressed following the resumption and were rewarded when Winchester, a half-time substitution for Jamille Boatswain, managed to beat Guyana custodian Andrew Durant from close range.

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Warriors disappoint again; Shahdon strikes from off the bench in drab draw with Guyana
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).


The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team ended their 2017 schedule tonight in much the same manner as they began it: uncertainly and unconvincingly.

For the second time in four days, despite playing on home turf against unfancied regional opposition, the Soca Warriors had to come from behind to secure a draw. On Saturday, the Warriors salvaged a 2-2 draw with Grenada in stoppage time and, tonight, it was the turn of Guyana, who managed a 1-1 tie with the host nation at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Almost 11 months ago, then head coach Tom Saintfiet led Trinidad and Tobago out at this same venue and got pretty much the same results. The record shows defeats to Suriname and Haiti but both games were also level at full-time with the hosts eventually succumbing in extra-time.

Unlike Lawrence, Saintfiet did not have his full team available—it was not a FIFA international match day—and was playing against stiffer opposition. Yet, immediately after the competition, the Belgian jumped before he could be pushed.

In contrast, Lawrence has not been shy to point out that he is under no pressure to hold on to his job. But should the team’s performances over his 10 months at the helm really afford him such comfort?

The stats read three wins against Barbados, Panama and the United States, three draws against Grenada (twice) and Guyana, and eight defeats to Mexico (twice), Panama, Honduras, USA, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Jamaica.

But it was not so much what is evident in black and white. Tonight, the Warriors—as was the case under Saintfiet—appeared to lack conviction and did not look altogether at ease with their game plan.

To be fair, Neveal Hackshaw, Nathaniel Garcia, Josiah Trimmingham and Neil Benjamin Jr all made their first starts under Lawrence and it was inevitable that team cohesion would be affected. But the football itself was so basic—not just in what was executed but what was attempted in the first place—that it almost appeared as if the team was regressing.

The Warriors tried to move the ball quickly around the back four in the hope that the opposing full-back had failed to stay close to either of the Trinidad and Tobago wingers. And, if that did not work, either of stand-in captain Sheldon Bateau, Hackshaw, Nathaniel or Trimmingham took the ball from central defence and tried to whack 50-metre balls to either flank or into the centre-forward.

It created enough chances to win the game with Guyana clearly susceptible to pace. But it seemed miles away from the passing triangles that Lawrence’s team seemed to seek out within the first few months of his tenure.

Has the rookie coach lost faith in his team’s ability to pass the ball beyond even such modest opposition? Or was he more risk averse after a spell littered with defeats?

Or were these two uninspiring friendly international merely hiccups along a path that will eventually lead to success?

In the stands, the Warriors supporters showed what they thought by simply not turning up.

There were barely 3,000 fans to watch Trinidad and Tobago face Grenada. Tonight, that attendance figure was cut in half.

Sad to say, the fans who stayed away did not miss much.

After an enterprising start in which Levi Garcia, used in the “number 10″ role vacated by Kevin Molino, looked to be on a different planet from the other 21 players on the field—meant in the nicest possible way in this case—Trinidad and Tobago again went behind early.

Guyana forward Sheldon Holder, who plays for Morvant Caledonia United in the local Pro League, played the ball wide for Kadel Daniel and then beat Bateau to the cross to head past Warriors custodian Marvin Phillip.

In the 30th minute, Nathaniel had a strike from distance ricochet off the outside of an upright but it was not until the second half that Trinidad and Tobago really asked questions of the “Golden Jaguars.”

Benjamin should have equalised in the 46th minute but he failed to hit the target after a cross from Levi—who had returned to the flank with the introduction of Shahdon Winchester at half-time.

Winchester did pull the hosts level in the 60th minute with a good left-footed finish from the edge of the area, after a pass from Benjamin, his former W Connection teammate. It was his second goal under Lawrence and his fifth in 2017, which made him the highest scorer for Trinidad and Tobago in this calendar year.

And the Warriors won enough space down either flank from the rampaging Levi and Lewis to put the match to bed. But they didn’t. And Lawrence would thank his stars that Marvin Phillip pulled off a superb late reflex save to keep out Guyana attacker Emery Welshman and preserve the draw.

On the weekend, there were angry voices from the stands as the Warriors failed to open up a dogged, compact but limited Grenada team. Guyana were slower, offered less in attack and were generally there for the taking. But there was a feeling of resignation from the stands as the minutes ticked away.

Belief is ebbing away from Trinidad and Tobago supporters; maybe within the squad as well. it is in short supply.

The euphoria of the United States win has faded fast. If Lawrence and the TTFA continue to see eye-to-eye, they will have their work cut out for them in 2018 if this team is to take its place among the best nations in the Confederation at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

FINAL:

Trinidad and Tobago 1-1 Guyana.

Results

Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Shahdon Winchester 60), Guyana 1 (Sheldon Holder 19) at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip; 17.Alvin Jones, 4.Sheldon Bateau (capt), 6.Josiah Trimmingham, 2.Aubrey David; 23.Nathaniel Garcia, 8.Neveal Hackshaw; 7.Nathan Lewis, 16.Levi Garcia, 11.Neil Benjamin Jr (14.Hashim Arcia 81st); 20.Jamille Boatswain (10.Shahdon Winchester 46th).

Unused substitutes: 21.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 9.Akeem Roach, 12.Kathon St Hillaire, 13.Curtis Gonzales, 18.Triston Hodge, 19.Kevan George, 26.Jared London.

Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Guyana (4-2-3-1): 22.Andrew Durant; 20.Terence Vancooten, 6.Jake Newton, 19.Jelani Smith, 3.Christopher Bourne; 8.Samuel Cox (capt), 14.Warren Creavalle (21.Anthony Benfield 79th); 10.Emery Welshman (7.Dwain Jacobs 87th), 17.Brandon Beresford (15.Shaquille Agard 89th), 12.Kadell Daniel; 9.Sheldon Holder (13.Devonte Small 66th).

Unused substitutes: 1.Akil Clarke (GK), 11.Gregory Richardson, 16.Kelsey Benjamin, 25.Daniel Jodah.

Coach: Wayne Dover

Referee: Moeth Gaymes (St Vincent and the Grenadines)

Highlights - Warriors Held By Guyana

Lawrence disappointed with Guyana result but insists T&T are on right path to success.
By Roneil Walcott (Wired868).


Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team stand-in skipper Sheldon Bateau suggested that the Soca Warriors—who failed to even qualify for the 2017 Caribbean Cup semifinal stage—are in danger of being caught and surpassed by less fancied regional opposition.

Last night, Trinidad and Tobago were forced to come from behind for the second time in four days to hold Guyana 1-1 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Guyana are ranked 165th in the world by FIFA while Grenada, who played to a 2-2 draw with the Warriors on Saturday, are 157th. In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago are 85th and have enjoyed an average ranking of 65th over the last two decades.

“These [Caribbean] teams are working and they are catching up; they are catching up with us,” said Bateau, at the post-game media conference. “I think what we saw tonight is what we have been saying [about the progress of these teams] for a while now.

“So we have some work to do as players and as an organisation; we have some work to do.”

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence, who led his team to a stunning 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over the United States at this same venue last month, again looked for positives as he claimed his team showed a slight improvement from their weekend draw with Grenada.

This week, CONCACAF rivals USA and Panama battled to draws away to Portugal and Wales respectively while Costa Rica fell to a 1-0 defeat against Hungary. But although they are doing battle against markedly less illustrious competition, Lawrence suggested that the Warriors were taking the right steps to ensure their own upward movement.

“My overall take is creep, walk, jump, that’s how I view it,” said Lawrence. “Sometimes you need to be realistic as well. We could have been in Costa Rica’s situation and play Spain and get hammered 5-0 because we are not ready for that. We can’t say we are ready for the likes of Spain, Brazil and Germany; we are not at that level yet…

“As we go along, then we could start elevating the level of the opposition because, if we play the wrong opposition, [we] can take ten steps back; we need to start going forward.”

Lawrence pointed out that the struggles of the Pro League at present were affecting the national team since the domestic competition served as a feeder for his squad.

On the night, it was not a universal view as interim Guyana head coach Wayne Dover was thrilled with the performance of his own Pro League player, Morvant Caledonia United forward Sheldon Holder, whose headed goal in the 19th minute put the visitors ahead against the run of play.

“We deliberately used [Sheldon Holder] in this game because he would know the conditions and he would know a few of the [Trinidad and Tobago] players,” said Dover, who showered praises on the work of former Guyana national coach and Caledonia co-founder Jamaal Shabazz. “So that was one of the strategies coming into this game and it proved effective seeing that he scored.”

Dover noted that Guyana’s football has been going through a rough “transitional period” since Shabazz’s departure and pleaded with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) for more regional tournaments, which would allow Caribbean teams to gain experience from rubbing shoulders with their counterparts in the wider CONCACAF region.

Dover also spoke at length about the cost of flying within the region, which he thinks has often deterred Guyana from playing more friendly internationals outside the FIFA window.

He suggested that last night’s result should serve as a spur for the “Golden Jaguars” and evidence of their own potential. He identified the perceived weaknesses in the Warriors set-up.

“From the game against Grenada, we saw that [T&T] were vulnerable when they tried to transition,” said Dover, “and we knew once we could get to the stage where we could have a free run at goal, we could score and probably come away with a win.”

Lawrence was disturbed by the manner in which his team conceded and the fact that they were forced to play catch-up yet again.

“We need to ensure that we concentrate [better] because we can’t be in a game for 90 minutes and have most of the possession,” said Lawrence, “and the first time the ball enters your box, you’re 1-0 down. And then from there we need to fight to come back again.

“But, as I said before, the mental strength that the boys and them showed was good because we continued to keep playing.”

Not for the first time, the Trinidad and Tobago team seemed to lack cutting edge in the middle of the park and often had recourse to long, diagonal balls while forward Jamille Boatswain and Neil Benjamin Jr both missed presentable chances.

AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia created most of Trinidad and Tobago’s best scoring opportunities last night, despite not being at his fluent best. Garcia began in the ‘number 10’ role before returning to the flank for the second half. However, Lawrence stressed that Garcia’s starting position was not an indictment on the playmakers at his disposal.

“We have still got Hashim [Arcia] who came on and we have got [Kevin] Molino who was out [and] young [Duane] Muckette [at] North East Stars,” said Lawrence. “The idea was to try and utilise the players we had in order to get a result and Levi fit the bill.”

Lawrence claimed that the Warriors suffered against Grenada owing to their limited passing range in central midfield—Kevan George and Jared London both started in that encounter.

“I think we don’t have the player yet who is ready to make that killer pass […] ,” said the lanky coach, who hinted that he now knows the players in his squad who are ready for international football. “When you play opposition like Grenada and Guyana, who are going to be defensively solid, you will get a lot of possession in the middle of the park.

“We now need to find midfielders who are willing to hit diagonal passes, switch up the play and play that killer pass. But in terms of [our play against Guyana], we almost had to be perfect before we could score.”

The Warriors have been far from perfect in 2017, as they finished at the foot of the CONCACAF Hex table. Now, Lawrence expects his charges to get some rest, regroup and come out ready for battle once more in January.

“The players and them had the opportunity to sit and talk to [TTFA president David John-Williams] about certain things and the idea now is to put a lot of things correct off the pitch in terms of the scouting, the finances and training facilities,” said Lawrence, a former 2006 World Cup player. “Put these things in place so then the next time we come together as a group, we are ready to start and lift off from that platform.”

Lawrence and the supporting Trinidad and Tobago public alike would like the sturdiest of platforms to build on for the future.

“I have enjoyed leading my country again, yes, but I haven’t enjoyed the results that have come with some of the games,” said Lawrence. “Obviously, all of us in this game want to be winners; we don’t want to be losers. But I have spoken to the group and we are now in the process of becoming winners…

“I don’t think we are ready yet to push and say we are gonna take over the world […]. The idea now is to enjoy this period and come back and do the work and start fighting them.”

The Soca Warriors, their fan base hopes, will be the ones landing the heavy uppercuts and jabs in 2018.

Lawrence happy despite results.
By Walter Alibey (Guardian).


National coach Dennis Lawrence is now ready to move on to the next stage of his rebuilding programme, despite drawing with Grenada 2-2 on Saturday and Guyana 1-1 on Tuesday night, both at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain, Couva.

Following a dismal 2-2 tie with the Grenadians, whom the Soca Warriors have not beaten in over 10 years, Lawrence was hoping to turn things around against the Guyanese, but they were stunned when Sheldon Holder’s header flew past Marvin Phillip for a 1-0 lead for the visitors in the 19th minute.

The Warriors though, remained in control and got the equaliser in the 60th from substitute Shahdon Winchester, who entered the team as an adequate replacement for midfielder Kevin Molino.

The only concern for the T&T coach was the lack of concentration which led to the opening goal. This he made clear at the post match press conference, saying: “We need to ensure that we concentrate because we can’t be in a game for 90 minutes with all the possession and the first time the ball enters the box you go one-nil down and then you have to fight to come back again.”

He admitted that while there are areas that need work, the mental strength shown to continue playing and tie the match was a positive sign.

“We had the opportunity to use the entire squad which was the main thing for me. To be able to go into the game and give them the opportunity to play themselves in. Josiah Trimmingham did well tonight and Kathon St Hillaire had the opportunity on Saturday. I am happy to have a look at all the boys because these are the ones, we are going to move forward with.”

He described Tuesday’s performance as an improved one to last Saturday’s against Grenada, and dismissed concerns that the young players in his team had been struggling.

“I needed to get that feel, whether or not they were ready for this level and coming out of the two games, I have got a clear idea now of the ones that we can move forward with and the ones who have to go back to their clubs and continue to work,” Lawrence explained.

T&T captain Sheldon Bateau said he was impressed with the performance on the night, despite the result. However he believes the regional teams are catching up with them and called for more work to be done by T&T, by both the players and administration.

Guyana coach Dwayne Dover said they had to dig deep and stay disciplined to get a result from a very superior T&T team which had the players to punish them at any time on the night.

“From the game against Grenada, seeing how vulnerable they were when the transition took place, we know that if we got a free run at them, we can come away with a goal and probably win the game but unfortunately with a draw we feel content,” Dover said.

The Guyana coach, who took over from T&T’s Jamaal Shabazz, said they too are in a rebuilding stage as they look to focus on qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time.