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ANTIGUA - football
Barbados captain Norman Forde splitting the Antigua defence with a pass that set up a goal for the overseas based Mark McCammon over the hosts Antigua at the Antigua Recreation Ground. (Picture by Colin Cumberbatch.) Compliments of the Nation News
St Kitts-Nevis' Atiba Harris unleashing a shot that led to his team's goal against Barbados at the Antigua Recreation Ground . The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (Picture courtesy www.digicelfootball.com)
Compliments of Nation News by EZRA STUART in Antigua September 2006
ST JOHN'S – No more draws; it is victory time. Barbados' senior footballers are on a pride restoration mission to revive the country's flagging football image.
After the team dropped 49 places in the FIFA world rankings, slumping from 93rd four years ago to 142nd last week, flamboyant technical director Keith Griffith is desperate for two victories in the next three days over neighbouring Leeward Islands teams, Antigua and Anguilla.
His optimism is buoyed by a morale boosting 1-1 draw with highly-fancied St Kitts/Nevis on Wednesday in Barbados' opening match of the Group "B" first round Digicel Caribbean Cup qualifying tournament at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG) here.
Barbados now clash with host country Antigua and Barbuda in a crucial match at the ARG and Griffith made it clear the Bajans were going after a win in the tournament which has been played under the aegis of the Caribbean Football Union since its inception in 1985.
"We will be definitely playing for a win but a draw will be satisfactory as it would mean we will only have to beat Anguilla (on Sunday) by two or three clear goals to qualify for the second round," Griffith told the WEEKEND NATION prior to a training session at the Empire Grounds here yesterday.
There are a couple of factors which favour Barbados who defeated Antigua 3-2 last year when the teams last met in a friendly international.
It is also noteworthy that Barbados thrashed Dominica 5-0 in a warm-up game last Sunday, while Antigua scraped a 1-0 win against the same opponents in the lead-up to the Digicel Cup, which carries a first prize of US$120 000.
Even though Antigua and Barbuda are coming off a high scoring 5-3 triumph against minnows Anguilla, Griffith said he was heartened by his team's draw against St Kitts/Nevis.
"It was an exceptional performance. We are comfortable with it as to get a point against St Kitts after only five weeks of training, and to have actually taken the lead against them, is really a big achievement," he noted.
St Kitts defeated Barbados in each of their last four outings and ousted them from the last World Cup with 2-0 and 3-2 victories in a home and away tie.
"We had set out to get maximum nine points but in our minds, we knew that the St Kitts game would have been very tough so a draw is a fitting result," Griffith said.
"The guys handled the 2 o'clock sun very well. The two English-based players (Paul Ifill and Mark McCammon) gave it their best shot for 70 minutes but faded in the second half as it was difficult for them, coming out of England only the night before," he added.
Griffith, who had a coaching stint with Antigua back in 1995, also got a first-hand look at today's opponents during their goal feast over their neighbours in the evening's second game.
"They were ordinary but they are playing at home and know the spacious ARG field well. But we are now looking at seven points and this means beating them tomorrow (today).
"I expect our guys to play at an even higher level than they did against St Kitts as we would be playing the Antiguans at 4 p.m.," he noted.
The coach lauded the defensive work of Elvis Defreitas and sweeper Rommell Brathwaite against the Kittitians.
"Elvis did an outstanding man-to-man marking job of George "Yellow Man" Isaac, St Kitts' captain and leading goalscorer, while Rommell had his best game of the year, marshalling the defence very well," Griffith remarked.
Defreitas may be handed a similar assignment of shutting down Antigua's striker Peter Byers, who scored a hat-trick against the Anguillans, including two penalties.
Griffith, who is in his first advisory stint with the national team after twice serving as coach, hinted the team might again employ a 4-4-2 formation but with a few adjustments.
"We are using John Parris and Elvis Defreitas as holding midfielders with Dwight James as the marker with Norman Forde and Paul Lovell as the play makers," he said.
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