Mount Pearl's victory "Good for Soccer"

At last, the drought is over for Mount Pearl. The Laurentians loss hurts, but I realize that a Mount Pearl victory at this point in time is certainly good for soccer. I will summarize and reflect on some of the happenings at all four games that were played on Labour Day Weekend.

Game One - Marystown vs. Corner Brook

The big question mark surrounding this game was, "Are the United team for real?" Marystown, who had only two victories in all of Round One, came through as the top team in the play-off round of Tier 2. Just the previous weekend, Marystown went to St. John's, totally shocking and defeating the Holy Cross and Feildians teams by an identical score of 1-0, there-by advancing to this Labour Day Weekend Tournament.
In Marystown's opening game, they came out like a house on fire. It was at the 16 minute mark that their MVP and top goal scorer, Darrell Stewart, got clear inside Corner Brook's defence and tapped a rebound into the net. After this, it appeared Marystown went into a defensive shell, trying to hold on for another 1-0 victory. Their approach didn't work. At the 41-minute mark, Corner Brook's goal scoring sniper, Mike Wall, slipped by the defensive duties assigned to Colin Power, scoring into a wide open net. The first half ended in a 1-1 score. The second half saw the Corner Brook midfield dominate and pressure the United squad. It was only the efforts of Craig Edwards, Colin Power and Scott Edwards that kept the score at 1-1 when the game ended in regulation time.
Pickett scores golden goal
In overtime, with Corner Brook pressing, it was Dion Durdle who carried the ball practically the length of the field, crossing it over to a wide open David Pickett who put a beautiful chip over the Corner Brook keeper for a golden goal and a 2-1 win. This victory sent Corner Brook packing and Marystown were to await and play the loser of the St. Lawrence vs. Mount Pearl game.

Game Two - St. Lawrence vs. Mount Pearl
This contest could have been described as the battle of the two Provincial Senior Soccer heavy weights. The game opened with a very high intensity level. Both teams wanted this victory and wanted their club to use Saturday as a rest day. Through the first 25 minutes, players demonstrated their skill, speed and their desire to win. At the 37-minute mark, Rudy Norman caught Mount Pearl's keeper Gerald Connolly off his goal line. Rudy made a striking shot, lobbing it over a surprised Connolly. The first half ended 1-0 in favour of the Laurentians.
The second half saw the play become very physical, and at the 61-minute mark, a free shot was awarded to Mount Pearl. Andrew Moyst took the shot at the 40-yard line, scoring a beauty. Just 8 minutes later, Laurentians keeper John Douglas, still stunned and frustrated by Moyst's first goal knocked Alec Turpin over the head with his forearm. This form of attack warranted the referee to award Mount Pearl a penalty shot. Jeff Walsh took the shot and buried it to the right of Douglas. Richard Kelly, who had been on the bench, was substituted in. Last season at the age of 21, Richard was acknowledged as the top striker in the province and one of the best soccer players at the Nationals. During his 20 minutes of playing time in this game, Richard caused havoc for Mount Pearl, generated scoring opportunities and keeping the opponents defence in disarray. Actually, it was a foul on Richard at the 74-minute mark that awarded the Laurentians a penalty shot. Blair Aylward kicked the penalty and tied the score at 2-2. Shortly after this goal Richard was back on the bench. For the remainder of the contest and throughout overtime, scoring opportunities were minimal.

Laurentians advance to finals
It was the penalty shot shoot-out, won by the Laurentians that made the difference. The Laurentians still found a way to win and they would now go directly to the finals, while the Mount Pearl team would have to play Marystown on Saturday.

Game Three - Marystown vs. Mount Pearl
By now, Marystown had rolled off their last three games with three straight victories. At this point in the play-offs, the players from Holy Cross, Feildians and Corner Brook were paying to watch Marystown perform. Would Mount Pearl fall victim as well? When the game started, Mount Pearl quickly demonstrated superiority by scoring an early goal at the 1-minute mark and they danced through the remainder of the half, carrying a 3-1 lead into the dressing room at half time. Second period saw referee Keith Pike call back what appeared a Marystown goal at the 50-minute mark.

Mount Pearl advance to finals
The lack of poise shown by Marystown squad over this call subsequently resulted in Marystown going down to a 4-1 defeat. With this result, Mount Pearl advanced to play the defending champions, St. Lawrence, in the provincial final. Hopefully, Marystown will regroup in 2004 and build on their great finish in 2003.

Championship Game - St. Lawrence vs. Mount Pearl
The Laurentians certainly had a more experienced team led by Bob Spearns, Jeff Warren and Paul "Manager" Slaney. Former championship hero's, Chris Caines and Richard Kelly had been relegated to the bench. It was very early in the contest that Rudy Norman started showing he certainly wanted to go to Quebec. He dominated the Mount Pearl back line as well as their midfield. He was a man on a mission, putting on a one-man offensive show. At the 8-minute mark, Rudy blew past Andrew Moyst and Karl Reddy, putting himself in position for a perfect pass. He sprinted in on Gerald Connolly, putting the ball far to his left, giving the Laurentians an early 1-0 lead. The Laurentians dominance continued until the 12- minute mark when Mount Pearl lobbed the ball deep into the Laurentians territory. Veteran Bob Spearns, who only had played 4 games this season, showed his timing was off as he made a major blunder. Spearns totally misjudged a simple header, allowing Mount Pearl's Alec Turpin to pick up a free ball and waltz in on Laurentians goalkeeper John Douglas. Turpin walked around Douglas and was about to put the ball into an empty net when Douglas hauled Alec to the ground. As a consequence, referee Rob Antle awarded Mount Pearl a penalty shot. Jeff Walsh scored and tied the game at 1-1. After the Laurentians regrouped, they continued to dominate and Rudy Norman continued to impress but the half time score remained at 1-1.

Coach Edwards replaces Rudy Norman
In the second half, Coach Junior Edwards made a startling move. He replaced Rudy Norman, the star of the first period and Adam Loder, one of the leagues most improved players. Coming into the game for the Laurentians were Richard Kelly and Chris Caines.  As the period progressed, with the Laurentians still dominating territory play, Gerald Connolly made some outstanding saves and young Jon Kelly played his defensive position to perfection. At the 57-minute mark, it was again Alec Turpin deflecting a shot into the Laurentians net for a 2-1 lead. As time dwindled down, Rudy Norman retuned to the field but it was to no avail. The fire had left his eyes and the bench had hurt his soul. Soon the Laurentians fortunes were to be over as Mount Pearl continued to play a very strong defensive system. At times they would catch the Laurentians defence, getting quality chances as they counter attacked. When the final whistle blew, the Laurentians dynasty was over and Mount Pearl were the 2003 Provincial Challenge Cup Champions.

"Gods of Soccer" Speak Out!!
Now that dust has settled it appears to me that the "Gods of Soccer" felt it was time for a new Provincial Champion. Maybe the "Gods of Soccer" gave Marystown a boost and realized that for the good of soccer on the Burin Peninsula, we need Marystown United to compete at a Challenge Cup level. Finally, the "Gods of Soccer" may have felt there is need for changes to occur in St. Lawrence. The Laurentians may have been told to turn over a new leaf and allow their youth players such as Tommy Kelly, Clinton Edwards, Sheldon Slaney, Richard Kelly, Robert Kelly and Paul Slaney to lead the Laurentians on into the remainder of the 2000's.

Gord Dunphy is a former Challenge Cup 1990's All-Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at gorddunphy@email.com or www.coaches-corner.net