Silver Sands’ Mario Birkett (second right) is denied by Empire goalkeeper Christopher at left. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe.)
Reigning champions Neighbourhood Care Pharmacy Weymouth Wales and the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme (BDFSP) have thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the Barbados Football Association’s Premier League with hard-fought wins on the opening day of the new season at the Empire ground on Sunday.
BDFSP, facing Crane & Equipment Ellerton for the third time in a month, left it late to triumph 1-0 over their St George opponents, while Wales prevailed 2-0 over Brittons Hill United.
Brittons Hill, the losing finalists in last month’s Williams Equipment Pre-Season Cup, and champions Wales, who endured a less-than-stellar pre-season tournament, both had a point to prove to the expectant crowd in the nightcap contest.
Experienced FIFA referee Gillian Martindale took charge of an energetic, end-to-end battle in which both penalty areas saw lots of action, but the goals never materialised for the majority of the game.
After a goalless first half, Wales took major control of the game in the second, but still lacked the required touch to convert their opportunities. Wales’ head coach David Ward had seen enough, and introduced seasoned stars Arantees Lawrence and Rivierre Williams, the latter in place of the mercurial Hadan Holligan, in an effort to alter the scoreline in Wales’ favour.
Brittons Hill neutralised the exciting Wales attack admirably for over 80 minutes, but a defensive error while attempting to clear a late corner proved to be their undoing – substitute Williams reacted quickly to prod in from close range after a botched defensive header rebounded off the post, leaving goalkeeper Shaquille Frank with no time to make a save.
Wales made their joy complete in the second minute of stoppage time when, after some superb skill on the right by another substitute, Tristan “Fishy” Parris, Williams eased into the box and calmly set up Romario Harewood for a clinical left-foot drive, which narrowly evaded the goalkeeper’s fingertips.
Last season’s runners-up BDFSP were also made to battle to the finish to overcome Ellerton in the 6 p.m. kick-off. BDFSP showed their customary desire, commitment and strength from the first whistle but Ellerton remained solid at the back and smart in possession as they sought to deny BDF a hat-trick of wins over them.
With both teams equipped and prepared after impressing in pre-season, it was the goalkeepers who were entrusted with the task of keeping the match level after numerous opportunities for both sides.
BDFSP remained a constant threat deep into the second half as their opposition grew weary and soon broke the deadlock in the 88th minute through ace midfielder Rashad Jules. A dangerous cross from Rashad Smith on the right perplexed the Ellerton defence, allowing Jules to ghost in and score from six yards.
In the opening encounter at 4 p.m., Abrahams United Silver Sands defeated fellow newcomers Empire 1-0. Derrine Gale Forde scored in the 77th minute to punish Empire’s sluggish defence and secure three points for Silver Sands. (NM)