* DIGICEL CARIBBEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS/DCC * CAYMAN LEAVE IT LATE TO RESCUE A POINT AGAINST ANTIGUA & BARBUDA & Bermudans gain entrance to DCC
Having been torn apart 4-0 vs. Antigua and Barbuda in their first Group C fixture, the battling Bermudans gained entrance to seventh heaven, with a tidal wave of goals against a shell-shocked St. Martin.
Although Grand Cayman narrowly escaped the brunt of Hurricane Gustav, the storms after effects were still being felt down at pitch level, with gusty winds and water collecting on the field’s surface courtesy of a brief shower prior to Kickoff.
Within minutes of play it became clear that both teams would have to adapt their game to suit the conditions; with St Martin playing a high line for the offside trap, to counter Bermuda’s irresistible pace upfront. But despite the ploy, the French collectivity found themselves pinned back in their own half for extended periods.
Bermuda could easily have lead 5-0 at the break, and were looking to make up for missed opportunities in the second half. Again Reginald Lambe led the charge and was anything but meek in his onslaught. With pace and persistence he dispossessed Jerome Beausol on the edge of the area, and then bundled the fourth goal into the back of the net whilst sliding on his chest, with the St. Martin defenders lobbying the linesman in vain to raise his neon checkered flag.
His hat-trick now in the bag, the 17-year old Lambe, who had never scored for Bermuda in his previous seven international appearances, was put into a more central strikers position and was involved in the 5th goal as well – feeding Jason Davies who released Antonio Lowe to a simple finish past a dejected Marconnet in goal.
Goal six fell like dominoes. Left all alone, Reginald Lambe chopped the keeper, and followed with another tap in to make it half a dozen for the high flying Bermudans in the 83rd minute.
With literally seconds remaining in the match, 16-year old substitute Casey Castle crowned a majestic display with a regal run; shuffling through several challenges to again poke it past the keeper to take the Bermudans
to seventh heaven, mathematically eliminating St Martin who had conceded 10 goals in 2 games, and 3 crucial points in their second fixture of Group C in the Digicel Caribbean Championships.
MEANWHILE – Separated by only 1 goal in goal difference, Cayman and Antigua & Barbuda knew that a loss today could spell a category 4 disaster to either of their aspirations at qualifying atop the Group C standings in the Digicel Caribbean Championship. So it came as little surprise that both teams started tentatively in the opening moments of the game, with measured exchanges and neither team over committing in attack. Midfield gridlock aptly describes the opening 15 minutes of play, with neither team able to maintain possession.
The home crowd got a scare after quarter of an hour when Ireland based replacement goalkeeper, Tuda Murphy (one of several wholesale changes to the starting lineup), almost got embarrassed trying to claim a loose ball he had no hope of getting.
Cayman began the second half with the wind to their backs, and got into the thick of things early on with a neat overlapping run by half time substitute Carson Fagan who, with his very first touches, tested Joseph at his near post.
The introduction of Fagan seemed a master stroke by Carl Brown, as his pace and confidence began to seep into the play of his teammates as well. It was Fagan’s run that earned Cayman a free kick near the goal line on the edge of the box. The resulting set piece literally only needed a touch for it to enter the net, however it never received it and the score remained 1-0 to Antigua & Barbuda.
With Fagan flying down the flanks, the Caymanians were galvanized in attack, winning three consecutive corners and getting a shot off each time. He then earned another free-kick just on the edge of the area and Mario Carter positioned to take it. Just as he had placed the ball, the crowd began to chant “Let’s go Cayman, Let’s go!!” for the first time in the game. As the ball floated high to the far post, it was O’neill Taylor rising head and shoulders above the defenders to plant a powerful low header that somehow squeezed under Javid Joseph and squirted into the net to send the crowd into raptures for the role they played in that crucial strike, and the role that strike could play in this crucial fixture.
While the stadium may have kept its roof in spite of Gustav, it was almost torn off by the rowdy Caymanian crowd when Jefford attempted a bicycle kick in the box for the winner. Despite three consecutive corners in the closing moments of extra time, Cayman were unable to breech the backline just one last time before the final whistle blew. Final score 1-1 with neither Cayman nor Antigua & Barbuda any closer to claiming the top spot in Group C of The Digicel Championship as their own.