Barbados and St Kitts/Nevis had to settle for a hard-fought 1-1 draw as Group “B” of the Digicel Caribbean Cup kicked off at Victoria Park in the capital of St Vincent on Wednesday night.
The Bajan Tridents drew first blood after just 14 minutes when Rashida “Jeffrey” Williams drilled a shot past Kittitian custodian Akil Byron following a smart build-up with the ball moving from the right side of midfield to the left. Former Barbados captain John Parris delivered a defence-splitting pass to an unmarked Williams just outside the penalty area after drawing the defence of the Sugar Boyz toward him. With only goalkeeper Akil Byron in his path, Williams made no mistake to beat him with a powerful shot.
Shortly after, he almost added a second as a square back pass by the former Argentina-based striker Riviere Williams, was played too close to goalkeeper Byron, who made a good save while putting his body on the line to stop Parris from getting on the end of the loose ball.
St Kitts, who had won four of their previous eight encounters against Barbados while losing three and drawing the other, gradually took control of the match. However, they rushed far too many long-range shots which sailed over the bar, rather than try to penetrate the flat Barbados back four, marshalled by the imposing 6 foot, five inch centre back, Barry Skeete, another player with experience of playing in Argentina.
The Sugar Boyz, who had to make a first half substitution with Joel Jeffers replacing Keithroy Richards, came extremely close on a couple of occasions but were denied by stout defending from the Bajan Tridents with central defender Jonathan Straker making a desperate goalline save after veteran Keith Gumbs clipped the ball toward Rouse following a neat turn on the left side.
Gumbs was in the thick of things again just before the half time interval when he found himself on the doorstep of the Barbados’ defence but the Ireland-based Rouse smartly spread his body and diverted the weak effort, away from the near post. Whereas Barbados opened the scoring, St Kitts/Nevis should’ve had that honour but Tiran Hanley’s powerful shot after just seven minutes was brilliantly parried by the Bajan goalie for a corner.
With the scores locked 1-1 at half-time, Barbados looked a lot more enterprising in the second session but were unable to grab the lead as a glancing header by Riviere Williams from a cross by left wing back Bryan Neblett, was easily plucked out of the air by Byron.
St Kitts/Nevis finally got the equaliser in the 61st minute and predictably, it was the combination of Gumbs and Isaac, which delivered for the Sugar Boyz, Gumbs dished off a neat pass to Isaac and his low shot from the top of the 18-yard box, took a deflection off Skeete and not even a desperate dive to his left by Rouse, who got his hands to the ball could stop it from rolling over the goalline.
Substitute Mario Harte almost put the Bajan Tridents back ahead but Byron pushed his shot away for a corner. At the other end, Gerad Williams, one of the many young Caribbean teenagers, who were chosen by John Barnes from the inaugural Digicel-sponsored Kick Start clinics to travel to English Premier League side Sunderland, squandered an opportunity when he hesitated inside the penalty area and had his shot deflected for a corner, a miss which left the Sugar Boyz with a bitter taste in their mouth as they had to share the spoils.