The provincial Senior Men’s Challenge Cup Tournament was played on King George ‘V’ Pitch Labour Day weekend. Here’s an evaluation of how I saw each team perform:
Holy Cross/The Keg:
In Holy Cross’s opening game, which was its only game of the 2008 Provincial Challenge Cup Championships, their starting line-up showed a few major surprises. John Hawco started up front despite being out of the line-up for a number of weeks due to an illness. Another surprise was Holy Cross would not have Jeremy Babstock, a key member of their starting line-up. Jeremy had recently completed training as a police officer for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and he was involved in his graduation ceremonies. As many had predicted, the Holy Cross/ Mount Pearl match up was a close affair. The play was fairly even with both goaltenders playing strong. The key opportunity in the first half was when Justin Pickford missed on a glorious scoring chance and the first half ended 0-0. Then just 10 minutes into the second half, it appeared Holy Cross was about to open the scoring but Gerald Connolly made an outstanding save, which turned out to be the turning point of the game. Mount Pearl then regained possession and made several good passes, carrying the ball the length of the field. They hit the ball across the field from the left of Edwards to an oncoming Ryan Caines, who scored a goal as a result of a beautiful header. Surprisingly enough this was the only goal scored in this contest and Mount Pearl focused its play for the remainder of the contest on a defensive system. Holy Cross refused to dig in and show any form of character championship teams are built on. I was totally shocked at Holy Cross’s lack of desperation in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the contest.
Coach’s Corner Comments: Holy Cross has too many pretty boys. Cross needs to revamp its team and get some character players into their line-up. They need players that may even lack a little skill, but know how to play with heart. All they had to do was look at the Jubilee Championship Game and see how Coach Paul Reddy’s Holy Cross Women’s team played, displaying all heart.
Mount Pearl/That Pro Look/Molson:
In its opening game against Holy Cross, Mount Pearl did what they had to and as a result they sent Holy Cross packing. They battled through this contest giving Holy Cross little to work with, knowing full well its opening game could go either way. Mount Pearl won this game 1-0 and deserved full credit for the victory.
In Mount Pearl’s second game, the semi final contest against Feildians, the winner would advance to the championship contest. However, in this contest it was Coach Walt Mavin’s coaching strategy that stole the show and become the talk of the tournament. For whatever reasons, Mavin left four of his regular key performers out of their starting positions.
Sitting on the pine at the start of the semi-final contest game were Mount Pearl’s 2008 all-star striker Justin Pickford, striker Ryan Caines who had scored Mount Pearl’s only goal in its opening game, Shane Antle who has been a mainstay and a key midfield performer with Mount Pearl for the past five years and David Manning who generally performs duty as Mount Pearl’s right wing back. Without these players on the field Mount Pearl struggled right from the opening whistle, as the Feildians were looking to upgrade their performance from their opening match.
Mount Pearl was just not the same team as they were in their first contest. Mount Pearl didn’t generate any form of attack, nor did its midfield show any form in controlling or distributing the ball. To add insult to a depleted Mount Pearl line-up, the Feildians’ Colin Browne struck a shot at the 28-minute mark, which deflected off the head of Mount Pearl’s fullback Victor Dray into his own net.
Minutes after this goal, Coach Mavin tried to start mending some holes he had created. He put Pickford on the field to replace Travis Beck. Still little changed and the Feildians continued to control the play for the remainder of the first half.
The second half brought about wholesale changes for Mount Pearl. Mavin went with his regular starting line-up as Antle, Caines and Manning were put on the field. Chris White, Trevor Ivany and Gord Ryan were relegated to the bench. These changes made a world of difference as Mount Pearl took control and totally dominated the second half.
But despite the total domination, Mount Pearl could not get the very important goal. As the second half progressed Mount Pearl began to perform as individuals rather than as a team. When this occurs frustration sets in and nothing was more evident than when at the 84-minute mark Gerald Connolly knocked down a Feildians’ player inside the box despite the ball being outside the 18-yard area. This resulted into a penalty shot.
David Webb scored turning out the lights on any chance Mount Pearl had in rebounding and going on to a victory.
Coach’s Corner Comments: The semi-final game for Mount Pearl will go down in the history books of Newfoundland soccer as one of the strangest, and peculiar, coaching strategies ever used by a coach at the NL Provincial Challenge Cup Championships. It’s quite evident Coach Walt Mavin gambled on trying to save his players for the Championship Game and as a result it backfired, and both Mavin and his team subsequently lost big time.
Feildians Ernst & Young Orenda:
In Feildians’ opening game against St. Lawrence, the 5-0 loss suffered by the Feildians should give you a good handle on what this game was all about. The Feildians were a ‘no show’. Simply put, the Feildians were given a clinic by the Laurentians on how soccer can be played at its best.
In the second game the Feildians made a couple of key changes to its line-up. None were bigger than bringing in goalkeeper Matthew Prim. The team played with more intensity and its all-star players became its key performers. The Feildians got a couple of breaks in their semi final 2-0 victory game over Mount Pearl. In most cases that’s what it takes to win, and when you get those breaks you take them.
With this victory the Feildians moved into the championship game and it was in this game the Feildians never got a break. Steve Croft’s shot mid way through the first half hit the crossbar. It had Douglas beaten and could have very well been the opening goal.
Then of course it was the controversy surrounding the ball, which hit Marc Pittman’s hand. It was correctly waved off by referee Mike Edmunds. This resulted in Richard Kelly scoring the only goal of the game.
For the rest of the game the Feildians performed on par with the province’s best.
Coach’s Corner Comments: Although Feildians’ may not have won the Provincial Challenge Cup in 2008, they have gained respect by earning it. Getting back to the hand ball, the rules of soccer clearly states ‘a hand ball foul should not be called if: (1) a player is instinctively trying to protect himself from injury or (2) the player did not deliberately touch the ball but the ball his hand.’ In this case it was the ball which hit the hand of Marc Pittman; Marc Pittman ‘did not deliberately’ handle the ball. According to the rules, the referee made the right call.
St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians:
There is no doubt the Laurentians, in Game One brought their ‘A’ game to the stage. This was one of the best games I’ve seen Coach Derek Strang’s team perform. Every player that stepped on the field played to the best of their ability.
But in the championship match, when St. Lawrence played the Feildians, the same cannot be said. The Laurentians were fortunate to get a win. As I earlier stated when you get the breaks, you take them and it was St. Lawrence that got the breaks in this game. I also realize sometimes the pressure is so great for the favourite, one does not perform to the best of one’s ability.
No doubt I must admit the Feildians may have had a lot to do with the way with the Laurentians performed, but in the end it was Richard Kelly, whose goal scoring talents gave the Laurentians a 1-0 victory and another Provincial Challenge Cup Championship.
Coach’s Corner Comments:
Despite what happened in the final or what could have occurred, I feel the province is going to be represented at the Nationals by the best senior men’s team in the province. St. Lawrence’s record of only one loss this season backs me on that. Furthermore, the 2008 undefeated Women’s Jubilee Champions, the St. John’s Kirby Team is going to be heard from at the Nationals. They are basically an all-star team, and are the strongest team that will have ever represented our province in Jubilee Competition. Congratulations to both teams! Good Luck at the Nationals.