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Trinidad and Tobago Head Coach Angus Eve belts out instructions while Lindell Sween (left) and Josiah Wilson (right) are substituted into the game against Guyana at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Monday, May 13th 2024.

SOCA Warriors head coach Angus Eve has called on his younger players to step up to the plate following Trinidad and Tobago's 2-1 friendly win over Guyana at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on May 13.

In the first of two friendly matches between the two teams in the build-up to Fifa 2026 World Cup qualifying next month, the hosts stormed out to a 2-0 lead at the halfway mark after a pair of well-taken goals by debutants Ezekiel Kesar and Kevon "Showtime" Woodley, the 2023/24 T&T Premier Football League's (TTPFL) leading goal scorer.

The home team's intensity and control diminished in the second half, though, and the Guyanese came on strong in the second period after grabbing a 47th-minute goal from their tricky winger Kelsey Benjamin. The 25-year-old Benjamin was highlighted as one of the standout players by coach Jamaal Shabazz, who felt the visitors gave a good account of themselves in the "useful exercise."

Eve was pleased with his team's execution of their game plan in the first half, and he said T&T should have capitalised on their positive spells to put the game beyond the "Golden Jaguars" in the first 45. In the second half, though, with the Soca Warriors coach making a handful of substitutions and granting debuts to the midfield quartet of Simeon Bailey, Adriel George, Josiah Wilson and San Juan North Secondary star Lindell Sween, Eve noted a drop in his team's standard.

"I was disappointed. To be fair, I thought it was a game of two halves," Eve told the media after the match. "I thought in the first half we really did what we wanted to do and what we practised. Basically, the ball (retention) was really good in the first half. We moved the ball around and we changed sides. We penetrated and we created opportunities.

"In the second half, that just went to pieces. I know we made some changes and we did play some younger kids but I was disappointed with their quality on the ball."

Kesar and the Caledonia forward Woodley, who has netted 16 goals in the TTPFL this season, were both taken off in the 67th minute as Wilson and the 17-year-old Sween entered the fray. Meanwhile, the central midfield pair of Bailey and George came on in the 76th minute as Matthew Woo-Ling and Daniel David, another debutant, made way.

Operating on the left and right wings respectively, Wilson and Sween looked anxious and hurried in possession, while the latter spurned T&T's best second-half chance after being played through on goal in stoppage time. Known for his sturdy midfield play and tough tackling, the lanky Bailey also wasted a presentable chance when he shot wildly over bar in the 82nd minute after the opposition failed to deal with a Wilson corner.

"I know it's a lot of young kids that we put on, but I expect bigger things from them. Josiah Wilson and young (Lindell) Sween have been playing at national level for a while and they have been playing at senior (club) level for a while, so I expected a little bit more from them today."

Eve said he was initially surprised by Guyana's 5-3-2 shape, which saw their centre-backs and central midfielders getting ample time to stroke the ball around as they looked for gaps in the T&T defence.

Eve felt his team read Guyana's intentions well enough, though, as he said the Warriors limited the clear-cut chances created by the visitors. Eve was pleased with the output of the midfield trio of David, Woo-Ling and Defence Force ball-winner Kevon Goddard, and he said his plan to play two "number tens" alongside the workmanlike Goddard proved effective.

He said there is still room for improvement, particularly as it relates to the fitness of the players.

"I think making the jump up is always going to be difficult," he said. "We have to play more games of this intensity for the guys to really hit their full potential."

Eve also commended the play of flankers Isaiah Lee and Kesar, who gave the T&T attack variety with their contrasting styles. The speedy Lee worked well in tandem with Ross Russell Jr down the left flank to get in behind the defence, while Kesar often drifted inside and found pockets of space outside the area – leading to his goal and a subsequent assist for Woodley.

On the 37-year-old Woodley, Eve said the striker's performance was "fantastic" as he played the number nine role to a T.

"He was a little bit leggy after 55 or 60 minutes, but what he did in the first 45 to 55 minutes is exactly what we expected of him," Eve said.

"He held up the ball, he linked the play well and he got his goal. And his runs off the ball probably deserved a little bit more."

From 7 pm on May 15, Showtime, Kesar and the new band of Soca Warriors players will have another chance to stake their claim for a spot in next month's World Cup qualifying squad.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday