Empire played its first game for the 2016-2017 ABFA football season, yesterday afternoon at 5:00pm against Old Road at the Antigua Recreations Ground. The game, as anticipated, was a well fought encounter as both teams came out to show dominance. The plays were running in both directions, but Old Road seemed to have had better control of the middle of the park. However, their efforts at our goal were constantly stopped by the defense, with the exception of a few times when they eventually took some wayward shots. There was one particular incident in which a cross came over in our defense, falling at the far post to a lone opponent, when a diving defender, our number 12, Ovardo Gordon made an effort and headed the ball away from the striker and into touch for a corner. Our number 60, Jahvin ‘Balla’ Sutherland made a strong fight with an opponent in the middle of the field and was able to come out the victor. He then made a run down the right side of the field and struck it across the goal for a cross, which was met by the steady boot of our number 88, Kareem ‘Swazo’ Lewis and was tapped forcefully into the back of the net.
We had the occasional burst at the other end of the field but our other chances also, went abegging. Even though we seemed not to be able to score, the comforting thought was that they too seemed to have had the same issues. However, our luck was about to change when our Central Defender, Ajrue ‘Jupa’ Sutherland pulled up while giving chase to a striker and eventually had to be removed from the field of play, in what seemed to be an agonizing moment. This occurred with about five minutes left in the half. A substitution was made as number 14, Chad Vidal went in as his replacement. The half ended in a few short moments afterwards.
As the game was about to resume, Old Road was out on the field ready, waiting and anxious for us to take up our positions. The game got on the way and they were coming at us from the onset. It was obvious at that moment that there was a void in our defense and the team did not react quickly enough to fill it; because for a good fifteen or twenty minutes of play, they just kept on coming at us and squandering the chances that they got.
We eventually seemed to make the adjustment, as the coach directed the captain number 16, Shakkimba ‘Yaya’ Williams to pick up the role of the right-half to allow Ovardo to play in the center of the defense. That move seemed to do the trick and from that point we were able to resume the attack which we displayed at the early part of the game.
Our second substitution was made in minute number seventy-one, when number 15, Justin ‘Trini’ Pereira was replaced by debutant, number 17 Rakeem ‘Buty’ Joseph. He came into the game highly spirited as if he knew he belonged and within twelve minutes, he pranced at a ball lobbed over by our number 4 midfielder, Albert ‘Tungi’ Bartley and before the defense was able to catch up with him, he was just outside the eighteen, when he let loose the shot that left his boot like a rocket. The keeper reacted but it was futile. That made it 2 : Nil.
The third sub was made as number 9, Nicardo ‘Yardman’ Lindsey replaced right midfielder number 3, Nyque Watkins. However, Lindsey did not make his presence felt when he entered the pitch, even though, we were able to squander a few more clear-cut chances from Tungie, Buty, Swazo along with a long range shot from number 11, Randy ‘Snacks’ Lawrence which struck the crossbar and came back into play. This came about ten minutes after the opponents had struck our crossbar.
The game ended at 2: Nil.