The Saint Lucia National Under-20 team played an exhibition matchup on Saturday 17 October 2016, against La Clery. It was a curtain raiser for the 2016 Blackheart / Saint Lucia Football Association (SLFA) Knockout Tournament third place playoff and final, played at the Daren Sammy Cricket Grounds. For the U20 team, it was a warmup match, as they prepare for the upcoming Caribbean Football Union (CFU) finals in Curacao.
In Curacao, the U20 team will be without two-time Junior Footballer of the Year Nyrone Winter. He is heading off to the final leg of the Digicel Kickstart Programme in Manchester, United Kingdom. But they have repatriated captain Ryi Maryat, the influential midfielder who is on sports scholarship at University of the West Indies (Cave Hill). Tranmere Rovers right back Joshua Solomon-Davies also made his debut at the weekend.
In the just-concluded Blackheart / SLFA competition, the U20 were knocked out in the first round after taking defending champions Micoud to extra time. La Clery beat former champions Dennery on penalties in the first round, and lost to eventual finalists Marchand in the second round. It was the first time La Clery had ever advanced past the first round of the Blackheart tournament.
On Saturday, the U20 started brightly, playing with a man advantage for about 10 minutes as an injured La Clery player was tended to. Before a small afternoon crowd of about 250, the technical team would have been pleased to see the level of defense and passing on display, leading to goal scoring opportunities for Noah ‘Lucky’ Nicholas and Gabriel Biscette.
Eventually, it was Jamie Prospere who broke the deadlock. A Keeroy Lionel interception on the left side led to a good shot on goal by Biscette, and the clearance fell to Gros Islet native Solomon-Davies on the right, the young professional bloodlessly releasing Prospere for the clinical finish, the Dennery lad wheeling away in celebration.
A few minutes later, Melvin Doxilly doubled the lead. Another Gros Islet player, Doxilly – along with Winter – recently trained with Solomon-Davies in the United Kingdom. On this occasion, he converted from the spot, just prior to a fairly bizarre conclusion to the first stanza.
Senior international Pernal Williams is not unused to getting dismissed from matches, but it would be difficult to justify this particular red card. With La Clery on the attack and looking dangerous, the lead official pulled play back to the spot of a previous foul. Pernal appeared to ask why the referee did not play the advantage, and was swiftly shown to the showers.
With a man advantage, the U20 team dominated the second half to an even greater degree, scoring twice through Nicholas in the second half, two well-worked goals that involved a high degree of teamwork, capped off by fine finishing from the 18-year-old Vieux Fort forward.
The national team would probably have preferred stronger opposition for their warmup, but the 4-0 outing gave head coach Cassim ‘Vaso’ Louis and his staff the opportunity to work out some kinks, see some of the squad’s fringe players, and improve the chemistry with Maryat and Solomon-Davies.
The U20 team leaves for Curacao on Wednesday 19 October.