St Leonard’s Boys confirmed themselves as the titans of schools football when they beat Alexandra, 2-1, in the knock-out final yesterday evening, to assume the mantle of double-crown kings of the Under-19 Barbados Secondary Schools Football Competition.
In the game at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex, the reigning League One champion were propelled by goals from Dishon ‘Eto’ Howell in the ninth minute and Thierry Gale in the 25th minute.
Micah Boyce pulled one back for Alexandra in the 69th minute but they failed to find the equaliser as St Leonard’s held on to lift their second trophy of the season.
Speaking after the match, the 16-year-old Howell told Barbados TODAY he had one desire in his final year at the school and that was to lead the boys from Richmond Gap to both titles.
“Throughout the season I tried my best to lead by example and ensured that these guys were always inspired including here in the final,” the Bayland resident said.
“We knew that they were going to pressure us, so our job was to keep possession of the ball in one corner [and] when they come, switch it and hit it on the counter which worked well for us.”
Alexandra coach, Kirk Corbin, said his players were gutted by the result but not disgraced, especially since the team had worked hard to reach this advanced stage of the tournament.
“My guys gave everything that they have and I can’t fault them. The instruction was simple and that was to dig, fight hard because it is a final and I thought for much of the game we were a little too nice,” Corbin said.
“We had a plan and that was to identify where their playmakers were and as you saw, the two times their playmakers got away both times we got beaten.
“The game changed in the second half when we became physical as St Leonard’s began to back peddle and went into a shell and that is when we realized we could do this, and if we had done that in the 10th minute or so maybe we would be looking at a different result.”
Entering as favourites, St Leonard’s were ahead early through a chance gifted by Alexandra defenders, who made the grave mistake of leaving Howell unmarked, allowing the marksman to beat goalkeeper Nathanian Knight from just outside the 18-yard box.
The first half clearly belonged to St Leonard’s and minutes later they were once again celebrating thanks to the exciting Gale.
Shaquannie Phillips took an initial shot which deflected off a player inside the box, and Gale quickly latched onto the rebound to send a powerful volley past Knight.
Down 2-0 at half-time, Alexandra had their work cut out for them and they brought a more physical approach to the second half with the backline led by Zenico Browne, Donico Watson, Jaiden Miller and Shamario Marshall, keeping St Leonard’s attacking threats quiet.
Just when things were shaping up nicely for Alexandra, they were dealt an unfortunate setback when one of their leading players, Javier Nedd suffered a serious blow to the hand in the 53rd minute, and had to be replaced.
The substitution, however, did nothing to hamper Alexandra’s zeal and their enterprise paid off just past the hour mark. A well-flighted ball from the rightfound Boyce in the area and he made little mistake from close range.
Alexandra then kept St Leonard’s on the defensive for the remainder of the contest, with a number of yellow cards being dished out as the Richmond Gap boys tried everything to prevent the equaliser.
In the dying stages, Alexandra had two free kicks but failed to make anything of them.