Combermere School are the new title holders of the Under-16 Barbados Secondary Schools League Championship, compliments midfielder Paul Clarke with the lone goal of the match against Christ Church Foundation School.
Played this afternoon at the Wildey, St Michael AstroTurf, the 2.p.m. final was evenly poised between two zone one teams that were very much familiar with each other. The first 35 minutes of the opening half ended in a goalless situation even though there were quite a few chances that went a-begging at both offensive ends.
Combermere who were runners-up last year, probed and got their reward in the 50th minute of the second half when Jelani Chandler was fouled on the right flank. He put the ball down and played it quickly to Ajani Straughan with a lovely ball inside the 18-yard box that beat all four defenders and found the versatile winger Clarke who was based at the left far post and he delivered a sweet volley.
It was a case of sweet revenge for Combermere who played eight matches this league season and lost just one against Foundation who entered today’s final with an unbeaten record after nine games.
During the opening half Foundation had two golden opportunities to take the upper hand against their opposition and on one of those occasions, the ball found the back of the net, but the referee assistant Reg-Marie Parris deemed it offside and raised her right hand to deny coach Roger Gittens that opportunity to celebrate.
Foundation captain Oshea Grant was brilliant on the ball and every time it appeared he had an opening to score, Combermere backline showed resistance especially their goalkeeper Sharad McAlister who oftentimes left his mark and took on any in-coming balls that looked threatening.
Just before the end of the first half, Grant delivered a low volley that went forcefully towards the target but was met by a brilliant one-handed diving save by McAlister who was extremely impressive and should have caught the eyes of any national selector present at the turf this afternoon. Another stand-out was Under-14 player Ethan Taylor who held his own against the big boys and created two very good chances.
Combermere have had much success in recent times having won the Under-19 Division Two League and gained Division One promotion.
After the match, victorious coach Marlon Harte told Barbados TODAY that after a very rough start to the season dealing with internal issues, his players were able to keep their focus and make the school proud with the help of senior teacher and coach, Michael Small.
“It was very challenging. We had a number of in-house issues, we had to take some disciplinary action, but we overcame that as a team and we got the focus back on the football. The guys showed that willingness to improve their attitude and behaviours and it all came together in the end,” Harte said.
Speaking in relation to the final, Harte explained that losing to Foundation earlier on in the league season did not really have a great effect on his team because they knew what was required to ensure they deliver this time around.
“Combermere against Foundation in recent times has always been a knife-edge sort of fixture. So, it was never going to be a blow-out in any direction, so we expected that. So I think we managed it in a football sense very well. We stuck to our game plan which was swift, short-range passes, good movement off the ball and then try to be clinical once the opportunity presented itself.
“Coming out of the preliminaries we looked at ourselves and saw where we needed to improve. Their game is a more direct game. They like to play a lot of long balls, we worked on managing that long ball and worked on heading away the ball to improve on those long balls. We also worked on the mental side and focused on playing the best game that we could. That doesn’t mean being perfect, we made mistakes but we also recovered from our mistakes, owning those mistakes to help the team,” Harte explained.