Today’s game was another disappointment for our fans and supporters. Our team started the game on the defense as Hoppers just came at us. Again we suffered this set back because our midfield was not matching the work intensity of the parties playing in that department. Hoppers were just running in the midfield passing to each other, as our players were either watching or chasing after them.
Since last season the coach has been preaching to the players that they need to double-team and support each other. Hoppers sent a long ball into our area and one of their front-runners got to the ball with very little real estate left for the field of play and at the same time, our number 2 defender, Jomo Andrew, caught up with him so that he was left with no other option than to turn away from the goal heading to the cornerflag. He then made and sudden turn coming back to our goal, with the same defender beside him and released a shot which beat our custodian, and putting us one goal down. The whole team stood by and watched this event unfold as if they were a part of the spectators and no-one took the initiative to get close to Jomo as cover so that they would have been in a position to make a challenge. This was our downfall for the entire 90-plus minutes. Perhaps the late start of training this season has the players less fit than they should be.
During the run of play, we were able to put a few plays together that would have made a difference had we converted on a few, however, our best chance came when defender Jomo Andrew took a ball from our defense and made a run, right through the midfield, right through their defense and ended up on a one-on-one with the Hoppers keeper, at which time he seemed to run out of ideas and kicked it along the ground, but well clear of the goal.
The fourth official indicated with the sign board that there was an additional three minutes of extra-time in the first half and at that time, one of Hoppers’ striker held a ball at the edge of our 18 and danced over if for what appeared to almost forever, going one way and then another. He danced while he was confronted by one opponent, then he drew a second and even a third at one point, before he eventually turn again and kicked a curving ball to give them a 2: nil lead. Not one of those defenders saw it fit to tackle to at least throw the player off of his game and he therefore felt confident enough to continue until he saw it fit to take a shot.
Coming back out for the second half, Empire remained with the same team except for defender, Jomo Andrew who was substituted for Ocie Knight. Knight came in and held his own, surprisingly to me, as being a face-paced game, I was of the opinion that it would have been a terrible evening for him. He however, pleasantly astonished me, as he displayed with confidence and poise on his half, squatting away most attempts that came down his half.
At one point of the game, a ball was struck through for our striker, Swazo who made a valiant effort to get to it and was taken down by their keeper, Spencer. The penalty was converted by captain ‘Yayya’ to put us back in the game. Nevertheless, I am not quite sure that most of the players wanted to be back in the game, because Hoppers continued to dominate in the middle of the park, and even though ‘Trini’ Periera was brought back into the midfield to try to stabilize that area of our game. Hoppers were still running on and off the ball and no-one appeared to be able to stop them. In the middle of the field for the opponent were Akeem ‘Little Sam’ Grant, who played with us last year and gave the team very little support; and another short, fat player who I was told was an Import from Jamaica. Despite and in spite of this we had no control of the middle of the pitch.
Hoppers was eventually able to score another goal, passing and running, passing and running, while we seemed not to be able to get to the ball. A ball was played across the goal and a winger came in from the far post and stuck it home to make the tally 3:1. They continued to come at us and to the very end we seemed not to be able to find any way of stopping them; and within a few short minutes, they were able to make a few more daring attempts at our goal. Lucky for us though, they all went abegging.
The final score Hoppers 3, Empire 1.