A polished performance by Naparima College in yesterday’s Coca Cola InterCol semi-final at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella saw them cruise past St Augustine’s ’Green Machine’, ending the Warren Street school’s title sweep ambitions.
Naps, who have underachieved by their standards all season long, seemed to have peaked specifically for this competition, their last chance at Secondary Schools Football League silverware.
And their national Under-17 stand-out Shahdon Winchester had a lot to do with bringing down the Green Machine, who had only lost once previously for the season, and not since they won the East Zone League title.
It was a duel purporting itself to be a match worthy of the InterCol final, but from the onset St Augustine were up against it, battling to get back into the match after falling behind in the third minute to a shot from Winchester, their first real attack of the match.
St Augustine goalkeeper Kerron Jones came forward to collect a cross from Ryan Frederick, but Winchester got his thigh to the ball and it hit net.
Without captain Jevaughn Vance, who sat helplessly on the St Augustine bench, the East kings lacked the spark up front they are renowned for.
It took most of the first half for them to find their rhythm and, disappointingly, ’Naps’ seemed to have taken their foot off the throttle once they had found the opener.
Still, the deposed South Zone champions controlled the match for much of the first half with their neat inter-passing play.
Dwayne Edwards should have doubled Naparima’s lead, but drove the ball wide from a rebound off the near post with Jones out of position.
Winger Theon James tried to put through #17, who was just a little slow to get to the ball, and the teams went in to a 1-0 score at the half, with St Augustine forcing a desperate save from Naps’s Keinol Paul just before the halftime whistle.
St Augustine searched hard for the equaliser on the resumption, but perhaps it was nerves causing them to squander a close range free kick, although James did scare the Naps defence briefly.
Coach Michael Grayson threw on striker Zavion Navarro, hoping for a some sort of inspiration, but St Augustine clearly did not look their confident selves, even when they pressed hard for the equaliser late on. Their crisp passing had deserted them and even Jones had problems finding his players.
Again in the 66th, Frederick could have put the result beyond the Green Machine, but he dawdled on the play with just Jones to beat, an the ’keeper dispossessed him.
’Gustine captain Stefon Pierre forced a rare save from Paul in the 75th, as St Augustine, in desperation, threw caution to the wind to try to level proceedings.
That left them vulnerable to the counter-attack, which Naps used to perfection to put the match to bed.
Off another failed St Augustine attack in the 86th, Winchester poached the ball and made space for himself, before unleashing Akeems Grant with a picture-perfect diagonal ball that dissected the last defender and Jones.
Grant was left with Jones’s goal at his mercy and he made sure his final thrust hit the net, a jab that jammed the gears and stalled the Green Machine for good.
Naps will now meet El Dorado East in Tuesday’s national final at the Marabella venue, a repeat of the 2007 final they have now become the favourites to win.
St Augustine comes up short
...beaten 2-0 by Naparima.
Kevin Sunich (T&T Guardian).
Make plans, but don’t plan the results. This is exactly what coach of St Augustine, Michael Grayson experienced yesterday, as his school failed in its bid to make a clean sweep in the Secondary Schools Football League, after going under 0-2 to defending champion Naparima in the semifinals of the Coca-Cola National InterCol at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
Naparima, which surrendered both its league and knockout titles to Presentation in the South Zone, got a goal in each half from national Under-17 standout, Shahdon Winchester and Akeen Grant respectively.
Naps, coached by Duston Williams, was off to a flying start, scoring in only its second attack at the “Green Machine” goal. Winchester gave the southerners the lead in the third minute with a thigh shot at the top of the six-yard box, after Ryan Fredericks outran the defence down the left flank before squaring the knee-high pass.
Goalkeeper Kerron Jones anticipated that Winchester would take the ball down and covered his first post. But quick-thinking Winchester sent the ball wide to the keeper’s right. Grant scored four minutes from the final whistle. He was set free on the right flank by a long pass from Winchester on the left, and played the ball to the right of an advancing Jones into the net.
St Augustine, the Big Five winner, was without regular captain Jevaughn Vance, who was serving a one-game suspension, after receiving two yellow cards in successive matches. With Vance missing in midfield, the Southerners had full control in the early stages of the game, doing as they liked with the ball.
Gustine, on the other hand, found it difficult to find a rhythm. In the 22nd minute, Naparima almost doubled the score but a header by Winchester from a right side corner was pushed overbar by ’keeper Jones.
A minute before the close of the half, Jones threw his body full length to push a ball wide of the post to deny Fredericks from scoring a shot from just outside the six-yard box. Nearing the end of the first session, the Naparima players seemed to relax and twice it almost cost them a goal, after St Augustine won possession of the ball in dangerous positions.
In the second half, St Augustine coach Michael Grayson switched Theon James, one of his better wingers, from the right to the left in trying to take advantage of a seemingly weak Naparima right-back.
In the 75th minute, Keinol Paul, the Naparima custodian, almost allowed a soft goal to score from a Stephon Pierre shot, but recovered after fumbling the ball.
It was one of the few shots on goal that he had to deal with in the entire match. For coach Grayson, his dream of winning all four competitions was halted by Naparima, which will now play El Dorado in the final on Tuesday at the same venue, from 4.30 pm.
El Dorado, which finished runner-up to St Augustine in the East Zone British Gas league series and was pipped 1-0 by its archrival in the zone’s InterCol decider, advanced to the final on Tuesday by whipping North Zone league winner St Mary’s 7-6 on penalties, after the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time.