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Strike forces kick ahead


Ezra Stuart

Strike forces kick ahead

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Akademiks?and T.S. Strikers may be without corporate sponsors but they have not let this be a stumbling block in their bid for the $100 000 first prize in the LIME Pelican Football Challenge.
The Pinelands-based Akademiks and Christ Church-based T.S. Strikers secured semi-final berths with contrasting victories in the first two quarter-finals at Kensington Oval last Sunday.
T.S. Strikers, who were without key player Jamal Chandler due to an internal team dispute, won 4-1 on penalties over a never-say-die Kick K.G. Strike Force after there were no goals in regulation or extra time.
That the game had to be decided on a penalty shoot-out, was due to some sterling play from Strike Force, who were somewhat unlucky to have midfielder Elsid Miggins red-carded in the 30th minute for serious foul play.
Maybe, a yellow card would have sufficed but FIFA?referee Adrian Skeete, who left the island on Monday to officiate in the second group stage of the Caribbean Football Union Cup in Grenada, saw it differently.
It meant that Strike Force played a total of 90 minutes, plus injury time, with a man short. Yet, T.S. Strikers were unable to score against a defence marshalled by John “Nobby” Parris, who turned from hero to villain.
I was also impressed with the defensive work of T.S. Striker’s Andre Daniel and Barbados’ Under-17 football captain Ramar Miller, who played with maturity that belies the fact that he is just 16 years old.
Rico “Sas” Baptiste also had easily his best match of the tournament in midfield and is certainly a player that could be part of the national set-up if he can maintain his composure.
The most disappointing aspect of the match was the poor finishing of rookie Barbados striker Armando “Suga” Lashley, whose two simple second half misses would have left a bitter taste in his mouth.
But it was heartening to see the accuracy of the T.S. Strikers’ designated penalty kickers. Teenager Jabarry “Pappy” Chandler was entrusted with their first kick and he beat goalkeeper Kareem Farrell to his right to give his team a perfect start.
It then went wrong for Strike Force as Parris opted for placement instead of his trademark power penalty and was saved by custodian Omari Eastmond as he correctly moved to his left.
Julian Nicholls was extremely lucky to squeeze his effort to the left of Farrell, who just failed to stop the ball from going in, but Diquan Adamson hammered his left-foot shot hard and low to Eastmond’s right to score the only penalty for Strike Force.
Rico Graham gave Farrell no chance with a low spot kick to the goal-keeper’s right.
Then, when everyone thought that one of the three former Barbados players in the Strike Force line-up – John Hawkesworth, Bryan Neblett or Rudy Grosvenor – would step up to try to keep alive their team’s hopes, tall defender Kimoi Seale came forward.
In what must be ranked as one of the worst penalties ever taken at Kensington, he inexplicably skewed his attempt wide of the post.
Fittingly, Daniel crowned an outstanding game by sealing the victory for T.S. Strikers, sending Farrell the wrong way. It was a tough way to go out, especially for Farrell, who has been one of the best goalkeepers on show, conceding a mere three goals in six matches, the same as Akademiks’ custodian Romayne Primus.
It should be noted that Farrell injured his hand in the very first group match against Akademiks and was replaced by Adrian Chase, who conceded two of the five goals scored against Strike Force.
In the feature match, Akademiks were just too strong for Scotty’s Tech4Less Combined All Stars and the 2-0 margin of victory could have been bigger were it not for some excellent goalkeeping from Mario Albert.
Mario Harte was a constant threat on the right side while Arantees Lawrence made a triumphant return to the team from injury, scoring both goals.
The first came from a nice build-up between Harte and Renaldo Bignall, another player, who has caught the eye while the second was gift as he only had to follow up a rebound from a shot by Lionel Paul, who teamed up superbly with the experienced Randy Burrowes in midfield.
Akademiks’ big central defenders Omar Primus and Jermaine Ceasar were tested a few times by Jeremy Bradshaw, who lacked the killer instinct in front of goal. But it was a pity that the two teenagers Zico Mascoll and Shaquille Boyce as well as midfielder Cody Mark weren’t introduced a bit earlier by the All Stars’ coaching staff.
Fans will now await the final two quarter-finals on Sunday when Nu Look 360 Connection oppose Indar Weir Travel Centre Barbados Steel Works Top Bay Settlers at 5 p.m. and favourites Phoenix Toyota UFO Fire House face Broad Street Men’s and Women’s Red Tridents at 8 p.m.

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