Thierry Gale and Dishon “Eto’o” Howell both scored a brace each, as St. Leonard’s Boys were once again crowned champions of the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Under 19 Division one Competition after thrashing Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic 5-1 at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex this evening.
What is interesting to note is that prior to kick off, both teams were level on 17 points having played seven games. But SJPP had the slight advantage having a superior goal difference of 24 to St. Leonard’s 19.
With that said, the odds favoured the boys from the Pine who needed just a draw to secure the league title but that wasn’t to be.
Due to the nature of the game, both teams started a bit timidly with players being extremely careful in possession and not wanting to make an error that could be costly.
St. Leonard’s were the first to shake off any pre-match nerves and capitalized on the quality of their squad which included two of Barbados’ top junior footballers who moved the ball swiftly around the park.
Polytechnic also started to find their rhythm but St. Leonard’s continued to knock on the door, which eventually opened in the 14th minute.
It seemed as though SJPP had weathered the early storm, but then a number of passes in the midfield resulted in them conceding a corner kick. It was from this corner that the game’s first goal came. St. Leonard’s broke free on the counterattack after the ball was headed away from the danger zone by Shamario Marshall.
Gale then latched on to to the loose ball and had enough time to volley an excellently timed pass to the in-form Howell who took the ball in his stride. He then pushed past Rashad Jackman who was the last defender back and tucked the ball into the back of the net sending SJPP’s custodian Terry Graham in the wrong direction.
Well, it’s a common saying in the sport of football that a team is most vulnerable when they have just taken the lead and so said so done. Seconds after celebrating, the boys from Richmond Gap were picking the ball out of their own net.
Quick movement down the left flank by Jackman who then crossed the ball into the box and found Mario Graham who finished with a one-time effort to level the score at 1-1.
At this stage of the match, SJPP knew that based on goal difference the current score would see the championship head to the Pine.
However, it was time for the second episode of what now became the Gale and Howell show.
Howell set up Gale in a similar fashion to the first goal to restore the lead for St. Leonard’s Boys.
SJPP then made a surprise substitution bringing on Rickneko “Slick Rick” Marshall to replace Jakobi Gooding but the score remained 2-1 at halftime.
The second half was a complete opposite of the first with the only similar characteristics being the approach by the two teams.
After applying pressure on the SJPP backline, St. Leonard’s were rewarded. Howell picked up the ball on the halfway line, dribbled past three players and made a darting run towards the opponents’ goal.
He then passed the ball to Donte Greenidge who was on the field for just two minutes and he found Gale in the box who had an awful lot to do. But Gale twisted and turned and managed to squeeze a shot into the goal bars which the keeper got a glove on but it wasn’t enough to stop St. Leonard’s from gaining the two-goal cushion in the 72nd minute.
It went from bad to worse for SJPP who were down and definitely out with the score at 3-1 and soon to be four.
Five minutes later and both SJPP central defenders Shaquan Hoyte and Rashad Jackman miscommunicated and totally left an aerial ball for Gale who only had the keeper to beat but unselfishly squared the ball for substitute Greenidge who made a meal of what many thought was a clear goal-scoring chance.
Things became heated after a decision went against St Leonard’s Boys and coach Fabian Massiah was sent to the stands by Referee Clifton Garnes but that didn’t stop the Richmond Gap boys.
Greenidge finally got on the score sheet in the 78th minute while Howell put the icing on the cake with five minutes from time to give St Leonard’s the win. By this stage, the fat lady had long sung herself hoarse.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY after the game, St Leonard’s Boys’ captain Howell said: “It was a lot of pressure because the media had it sound like a really big cup tie or final. All I told my guys was to stay calm and play the football we normally play and after we scored the game really opened up.”