The game we played yesterday against SAP was another uncertain encounter. I use the word ‘uncertain’ because this was of the same level or blend between curiosity and anticipation which we usually have with the first games of each season. This feeling comes as, in spite of the talent which usually surrounds the players, there is always the possibility that the players may not blend together, or a player or two may not live up to our expectations. We had this feeling with our first game of this season and came out victorious, but just when we were entertaining a feeling of comfort knowing that we can challenge, injuries set in. Our physiotherapist and trainer Willie, travelled on national duties with the U20 team and arrangements were therefore made to have Carl Casey, sit in with the team in his absence.
The team had to be scrambled and reshaped after that glorious first outing, as Trini and Jupa went out on the Disabled List, Snacks travelled with the U20 National team and some of the other players were nursing injuries. Coach, Steadroy ‘D’Man’ Anthony and the rest of the coaching staff had their jobs cut out for them as they had to try and duplicate a winning team with the rest of the guys, as the fans will accept nothing less.
The game started as scheduled for 7:00 pm at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) and Empire was defending the western goal, striking at the goal to the 1735-end of the park. The game was not an outstandingly exciting matchup, but there were moments when both teams were able to raise the level of excitement with decent opportunities to score. SAP strikers were the recipients of several run-through straight at our goal, but miskicked, saves by the goalkeeper or some other creative way of not putting the ball between the post, made these missed opportunities – LUCKY for us!
We also had our chances and Oh, how our fans and well-wishers wanted us to make good of them, but that was not to be. Our clearest chance in the first half came when Nicardo ‘Yardman’ Lindsay was able to deceive the defense and got through with the ball, in the 18-yard box and struck a wayward ball well clear of the bar.
The second half was not much different, but during the run of play, SAP superstar, Peter Byers, took a shot at our goal which struck the hand of our defender, Baller (which was by his side and therefore ruled off by the referee despite the screams of the their fans and players), and the next thing that we noticed, was that our keeper was being treated for an arm injury. He had to leave the field of play and was immediately substituted by Orson Forde. The newcomer almost had his sheet soiled, as a striker ran through and flicked a ball around him, but that too was scrapped as Baller came close behind to clear it before it entering the net.
As it was getting closer to the end, our players seemed to have decided that they wanted to win the game and a series of events unfolded, which gave rise to several back-to-back chances. The one that will sit in our memories for a while came as the fourth official raised the board to notify that there were 3 minutes added as extra time. A ball came out of our defense and went deep in the opponent’s box when one of their defenders casually gave chase along with their goalkeeper. Our striker, Swazo, made a determined effort to get there and between both opponents. Almost miraculously, he was able to get hold of the ball with about two feet of space from the goal line and further able to avoid both opponents, pulled it back from the line and made a quarter-back to Tungie. Well I think that the whole arena anticipated Tungie spanking it at the goal, however, Tungie had other plans and moved the ball as if to find the opportune time to hit, which never arrived as the defenders collapsed on him and he was eventually dispossessed.
The game ended shortly after on the same note that it started; Empire 0: SAP 0.