One of Cayman’s national youth football teams is making good strides on the pitch of late.
The national Under-23 team drew with a select side from Scholars International Football Club 2-2 in an exhibition match last Wednesday.
The match was played at 7:30pm in front of a sparse crowd at the Ed Bush Field in West Bay.
The Scholars side consisted of members from both its premier and first division squads.
For the premier team players it was a last-minute warm-up before taking on Future SC in the semi-finals of the Digicel Knock Out tournament at Ed Bush yesterday.
The U23 team meanwhile came into the match after a good 3-3 performance against East End on 3 December.
The youngsters also came in with a slight familiarity with Scholars having faced a similar group of players in a scrimmage against Scholars on 10 December.
Last Wednesday’s match would see the U23 side start out well from the get-go. The passing was crisp, the backline looked composed and the side made constant forays into the Scholars defense.
There they would show superb dribbling skills to get around the likes of Fred Ebanks and Oneil Taylor.
As a result, Scholars Goalkeeper Colin ‘Dougie’ Rowe saw more than his fair share of shots in the first half. But the experienced footballer stayed calm under pressure and turned away most chances.
Then again Rowe is used to being put to the test as keeper for the Scholars premier side. Rowe has had to step up in recent times with national keeper Jermaine Brown out with a broken arm.
Meanwhile the Scholars frontline saw plenty of the ball as well. The likes of Leon Whittaker and national team player Chris Douglas moved the ball well past midfield.
Their experience and speed would pressure the U23 defense and open up plenty of running room along the wings.
Soon enough the tactical passing and runs from Scholars would pay off with a goal. First Division player Chris Frederick would be the first to get his name on the score sheet. Frederick received a cross on the right flank and sent a sound low shot past a diving Ramon Sealy.
However the U23 side persisted in challenging the Scholars defense. Players like Gavin Watson Jr made solid passes from midfield that opened up runs towards goal.
Their persistence would pay off and result in a goal. The youngsters would send a promising long ball towards the defense. With a striker chasing full speed, a Scholars defender made a defensive miscue and headed a high, bouncing ball into the back of the net for an own goal.
At half-time the score would be level at one-all. The coaches for both teams would take the score line in different ways.
National U23 Coach Ernie ‘Gillie’ Seymour would urge his side to keep cool in the back and put more pressure on the Scholars defense.
Meanwhile Coach Phillip Hydes [who is normally Head Coach of the Scholars first division team] and Assistant Coach Maurice ‘Ricky’ Frazier would preach continued sound passing and urge their players to maintain a high concentration level.
Scholars Technical Director Antonio ‘Tawny’ Smith would also give out some minor pointers to the players during the break.
The second half would see a number of changes for the U23 side and none was bigger than bringing on football prodigy Tex Whitelocke in midfield.
Whitelocke would lead a renewed push on offense and eventually he would put away a goal past Rowe.
Scholars would counter with a goal of their own courtesy of Premier team player Fabian Malcolm.
Ultimately the second half saw a number of chances for both sides though line judges Sharon Collins and Dewayne Ebanks would end up flagging some as off-sides.
Soon enough CIFA referee Peterkin Berry would blow the final whistle and the teams would shake hands at midfield.
Coach Gillie Seymour felt his U23 team did well on the night.
‘The squad played well and they created more chances in the second half. They could have converted more chances but I’m happy with what they did.’
Seymour went on to say that the defense held its own on the pitch.
‘The central defense did well. The wing backs had a lapse in concentration but that’s something they can correct over time.
‘Ramon Sealy did good in goal for us. He has youth on his side and can play with the U20 national side as well. He is certainly our top choice in goal.’
Coach Ricky Frazier gave his own assessment of the match.
‘It was a good game. The U23 side moved the ball well from the beginning. They made a few mistakes here and there because of their youth. But all in all they kept up with the Scholars team well.
‘In the second half Scholars went astray from the game plan. They didn’t play as a unit and showed a loss of concentration and discipline.’
This was the last of the year for the U23 side. Their next game will be on 14 January when they are set to face Bodden Town at 7:30pm at Ed Bush Field.