A systematic adjustment by Presentation College coach, Shawn Cooper, in the second half of Monday’s Coca Cola Intercol South Zone final played an integral role in his team’s capture of the coveted zonal title against 2018 winners, Naparima College.
At Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, the Presentation College Lions ended a two-year winless streak against their southern rivals by producing a hard-fought 4-3 triumph via kicks from the penalty spot.
After a goalless first half, Naparima College, opened the scoring in the 53rd minute courtesy forward Isa Bramble, who rifled home a powerful left-footed strike. It was at that very moment Cooper opted to change his team’s tactics and pursue a more attacking formation, which, in the end, reaped the desired result.
“We knew Naps are a very strong offensive team but, we allowed them to come to us. In doing so, if they did not capitalise on the possession they were allowed, after a while they would have gotten fatigued. The script changed though, when Naps went ahead in the early stage of the second half. The one occasion they got to sneak past us, they made no mistake and scored,” explained Cooper yesterday.
The veteran secondary school instructor revealed that this drastic turn of events forced him to revert to a more attacking style which placed added pressure on the defending champions in the remaining minutes.
“The goal forced us to get more involved in the game and go into overdrive. We had to go into plan B. By the time we began to press harder in the later stages, the Naparima players were tired and their backline started to wither. It worked for us and they were drowned in honey,” he added.
Presentation’s well-worked victory also ended an almost two-year unbeaten run by ‘Naps’ in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), Zonals and Intercol tournaments. Last year, the Angus Eve-led outfit played unbeaten throughout the season and captured the triple-crown.
However, following an unsuccessful defence of their zonal title on Monday, Naparima also lost their opportunity to defend the National Intercol crown and will conclude this season with one national title, the Shell/FCB SSFL crown.
Back in 2018, both teams met in the South Zone final, which saw Naparima prevail in similar fashion, 4-3 from penalty kicks. According to Cooper, a repeat of last year’s result was nowhere in the plans for “Pres.”
“We are very elated and it’s long overdue,” Cooper continued. “This would have been the second Intercol South Zone final that was decided via kicks from the penalty spot. If we lost this time, it would have been a travesty. As faith had it made, we got the better of them this time. We took a different approach to the game and it benefited us in the end.”
Presentation College now direct their focus toward Friday’s National Intercol semi-final meeting (Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, 5pm) against St Anthony’s . The dominant South team has not hoisted the crown since the 1970s and is adamant to return the Premier Division’s highest accolade to the Presentation locker room. With arch rivals Naparima out, Cooper still believe it’s anyone’s title for the taking.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time. (What) we have to do is recover from the game and that’s key. Getting back the players as fresh as could be to compete, then we will have a look at the opposition and strategise from there. Now that Naparima is out of contention everyone has a big chance. We are not title favourites,” Cooper concluded.
2019 Presentation College Team – Aleem Barclay (captain), Isaiah Williams (goalkeeper), Terrell Noel, Justin Cornwall, Luke Charles, Naeem Bisnath, Kassidy Davidson, Ackeel Jacob, Nkosi Charles, Acelino Medford, Jaiye Sheppard, Adica Ash, Nigel Caraby, Jardel Sinclair, Shakeem Cooper, Amaal Julien, Jerelle Thorne, Dantaye Gilbert; Staff – Roland Atwell (manager), Shawn Cooper (coach), Dunstan Williams (assistant coach), Jefferson George (goal keeping coach), Natalie Charles (physio), Mancini Mahadeo (equipment manager)