Pride Versus Prestige In The Penultimate Match Of Group C In The Digicel Caribbean Championships

– It was an upstairs, downstairs affair as Group C leaders Antigua & Barbuda squared off against  St. Martin who had yet to score in the Digicel tournament

It was an upstairs, downstairs affair as Group C leaders Antigua & Barbuda squared off against a St. Martin team that had already conceded 10 goals in its previous two games, and were still without their first goal of the Digicel Caribbean Championships.

From as early as minute three, St. Martin’s newly installed replacement in goal, David Saintil, was almost exposed when a ricocheted clearance cannoned off of attacker Jamie Thomas and hit the post. Obviously hopeful to further damage St. Martin’s woeful defensive record, Antigua & Barbuda attacked with reckless abandon from the outset.

St. Martin did manage to weather the early storm, maintaining the integrity of their net, even when in minute eight a catapult throw-in freed Roy Gregory from his marker, before a slide rule pass then released Jamie Thomas one-on-one with Saintil, who did well to make himself big at the feet of Antigua & Barbuda’s top scorer.

In minute 13 it was Thomas again who was supplied by a cross, whipped low into the six yard box, but again Jean-luc Marconnet’s replacement in goal proved a far more effective shot stopper than St. Martin had in their previous two games, forsaking life and limb at the feet of the powerful Antiguan’s. Unfortunately for the French islanders the heroics meant that Saintil had to be stretchered off with an eye injury, even as the referee brandished a yellow card in his direction for supposed simulation.

Having conceded 7 goals in St. Martin’s previous fixture, Jean-luc Marconnet was called into action almost immediately, making a body block after their opponents had once again powered their way through the central defense.

Shortly after, in minute 22, St. Martin had their best chance to open their account for the tournament, after a shaky call from Antiguan goalkeeper Javid Joseph allowed Francis Peterson to steal in, before a goal saving sliding tackle from Garfield “speedy” Gonsales denied the French collectivity their first goal of the qualifiers.

Antigua & Barbuda seemed over confident in attack with players actually tackling one another in an attempt to score. Their confidence appeared well placed, as in minute 31 Rackley Thomas was brought down just inside the box by a mistimed Stanislas Adams tackle from behind. Top scorer Thomas stepped up to the spot and struck; only to see the ball rebound off Marconnet’s legs.

Thomas would make up for his mishap in minute 38 when he collected on the edge of the 18 yard box, poked it around the advancing Marconnet, recollected it, before poking it into a vacant net to open the scoring for Antigua & Barbuda.

With pride on the line for St. Martin, and prestige for Antigua & Barbuda, the neutrals in the crowd started to get behind the much maligned St. Martin, practically willing them to score in the second half. And in minute 55 a minor miracle from halftime substitute Markenson Pierre drew parity to the affair, when after a long goal kick Stanislas Adams played it in to Pierre who finished from close range to score and send the crowd into raptures, as an unlikely upset looked on the cards.

Those hopes seemed dashed when in minute 57 Elvis Fleming left the building, after his second bookable offense for a two footed studs up challenge, reduced St. Martin to 10 men.

Having just lost Fleming, St. Martin would gain something potentially more valuable, a brilliant individual aerial effort from substitute Pierre gained him possession, he then made some shooting space for himself before lacing a low drive across goal to beat Joseph at his far post and give St. Martin what they could only dream of before, the lead. The score now 2-1, in favor of 10 man St. Martin.

They would almost make it 3-1 when a high swirling ball into the box was almost chested in by Joseph who nervously snatched at the catch.

But with Antigua & Barbuda’s place atop the standings at stake, they redoubled their efforts to draw level, and with some excellent wing play were able to do just that when a cross from Thomas was redirected into his own net by Charles Emile to draw the score level at two apiece.

Minute 87 would provide the turning point of the game, when Marconnet who had come on as a substitute for an injury was himself ‘knocked out’ by a high boot at the edge of the box. The restart would catch the St. Martin team off guard, when Ken Pennyfeather’s weaving run into the box went unchecked, and a dazed and confused Marconnet was unable to offer a dive in the cluster of defenders, allowing substitute Okeem Challenger to go unchallenged as he slotted home to take the score to 3-2; and grant Antigua & Barbuda safe passage as winners of Group C, on to the next round of the Digicel Caribbean Championships set for Trinidad in November.

St. Martin: 2. Jean-Paul Arrondell 3. Jerome Beausol, , 5. Stanislas Adams, 6. Elvis Fleming, 7. Thierry Francis (13. Youn Fantilus min 76), 8. Malik Nejin (9. Eric Daniel min 30), 10. Stevens Sequin, 16.Marckenson Pierre, 18. Joel Richardson, 22. David Saintil (1. Jean-Luc Marconnet min 15).

Subs:  4. Charles Emile, 12. Jean-Luis Richards, 14. Victor Richardson, 17. Francis Peterson

Antigua & Barbuda: 2. Ranja Christian, 4. Karanja Mack, 5. Garfield Gonsales, 8. Teran Williams (13. Akeem Thomas min 85), 9. Roy Gregory, 10. Desmond Bleau, (16.Okeem Challenger min 69) 11. Jamie Thomas, 12. Ken Pennyfeather, 15. Rackley Thomas, (7. Randolph Burton min 59), 18. Javid Joseph.

Subs: 1. Keita Decastro, 3. Dave Carr, 6. Damian Farrel, 14. Troy Mellanson

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