All it took was one match-winning strike from national Under-16 forward Thierry Gale for Pine Hill St Leonard’s Boys to clinch their third consecutive Under-16 Coca Cola Barbados Secondary Schools Football Knockout title this evening.
Both St Leonard’s and Combermere came into today’s final undefeated but the Waterford lads knew the odds were against them playing against perennial powerhouses St Leonard’s Boys at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex. But that did not in any way deter them from taking the fight to the defending champions.
In fact it was Combermere who dominated proceedings upfront during the first half but were unable to finish the job on each occasion. That was one of the main factors that cost them the chance to dethrone the boys from Richmond Gap.
After 35 minutes of on-field battle, the scoreboard remained untouched. Then in the 39th minute in the second half Gale collected a lovely long range pass from midfielder Dimitri Archer inside the 18-yard box, controlled it and dribbled past Combermere defender Shaquan Haynes for a low on-target shot.
That was certainly cause for celebration and credit must be given to Gale who has been fantastic for St Leonard’s Boys throughout the knockout. It was his ninth goal overall for the tournament.
Both teams were captained by national Under-16 players – Shaquannie Phillips wearing the armband for St Leonard’s and Andre Applewhaite for Combermere. Applewhaite in particular was on target with his left-footed free kicks each time his team won possession but it all came down to good defending at the back from St Leonard’s four-man defensive team of Phillips, Zemio Browne, Robinko Phillips and Shakielle Beckles. Not to take anything away from St Leonard’s goalkeeper Coshon Scott who did well to deny Combermere who played a four-five-one system.
That strategy did not work so well for the Waterford lads and coach Marlon Harte made a late decision to have two strikers instead of one upfront but that had no effect on the end result. National junior player Devonte Richards, Donte Thorne and Christian John made a number of notable attempts but were either called offside by the linesman or there was no one inside the box to finish the job for Combermere when the opportunities came.
Perhaps if Combermere had shut the ball down in the midfield a lot sooner in the second half and slowed down Gale and company from running at them, then maybe they would have stood a better chance of coming away victorious against coach Fabian Massiah and his players who kept their composure and offered their opponents nothing past their defence.
Speaking after the final, coach Massiah told Barbados TODAY they were definitely going for the double and their fourth consecutive league trophy this coming Friday, May 12, when they take on Combermere once more in the Under-16 showdown.
“Combermere came well prepared, well drilled and it was just a matter of who scored first and we did. From there on we had the upperhand at winning the game. I must admit we were not at our best today, the system we played in the first half did not match what they [Combermere] were doing and I adjusted it in the second half in which we gained a lot more possession and created a lot more chances,” explained Massiah who praised Combermere for playing as well as they did despite coming out on the losing end.
Combermere have not reached an Under-16 final in a very long time and coach Harte gave his team kudos for reaching this far. Describing the final, he said: “Initially we were able to express ourselves the way we wanted to play, we had a quick forward passing with good diagonal balls is what we try to play and I was always confident in the ability of my players. But in the first half we did not take the chances that we created and I think that is what cost us.”