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Bermuda give Darrell reason for nostalgia

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Bright start: Gary Darrell

Gary Darrell’s mind drifted all the way back to the 1992 World Cup qualifying campaign as he sat in the stands at Bermuda’s recent home win over Guyana, and then watched the opening Gold Cup match against Haiti on television on the weekend.

Darrell, the coach of that team 27 years ago which included the likes of overseas professionals Shaun Goater, Meshach Wade, Kentoine Jennings and Kyle Lightbourne, the current national coach, was sitting beside Donald Dane, his former Devonshire Colts coach, and a former president of the Bermuda Football Association. Whereas his team had a few professionals, the overseas players are in the majority in the present Bermuda team.

“You can see the benefits of the guys playing off the island, but it’s the same challenge for the staff in having enough time to get them together and prepare them as you would want to,” Darrell said. “Fortunately, this is at the end of most guys’ season, so their fitness level should be pretty good.”

Darrell noted how Bermuda played better in the first half against Guyana when Donte Brangman, playing at right back, scored the only goal late in the half. Against Haiti on Sunday they created a host of first-half chances and led on captain Danté Leverock’s header from a corner in stoppage time before Haiti came back with two goals in the second half through Frantzdy Pierrot.

“I thought in the game against Guyana it was a good first half, so it is hard to be critical if you don’t know what the coach is asking the team to do,” Darrell said. “I know he was trying different tactics that he might want to use against Haiti and the other teams.

“From his comments after it seems he was comfortable with what they were trying to do in the first half. Something he probably could have picked up on is that teams come out different in the second half.

“Even in the Guyana game they were more competitive and gave us more of a challenge than they did in the first half, similar to what happened against Haiti the other night. They definitely came out with a different attitude and raised their game tremendously in the second half. Not anticipating that we got caught on the back foot.”

Darrell added: “It looked like we belonged there, we weren’t outclassed, but in the second half teams will come out differently.”

Darrell still remembers the two matches against Haiti in 1992 when Goater scored an 87th-minute goal in a 1-0 home win and then opened the scoring in Haiti midway through the first half. Bermuda lost the match 2-1 but advanced to the second round of qualifying on that away goal after the teams finished 2-2 on aggregate.

“I remember when we beat them here 1-0 and I said to a reporter that I can’t see them getting much better, even at home,” Darrell said. “But when we went down there, they were a completely different team — far, far better there than here. We lost 2-1 but advanced on the away goal.

“The performance from that team, being at home, was like day and night, even though we hung in and were under pressure from the time we scored.”

Darrell noticed the same thing with Haiti on Sunday when they turned the game around in the second half to clinch the win. “I don’t know how many of their guys were pros but they certainly looked like a different team in the second half,” he said.

“Last week I went through the roster of the teams in our group to see who I recognised from playing professionally and there are a couple of guys who are playing outside of Haiti and outside of Costa Rica, either in the MLS or the European leagues.

“I figured from the players we have off the island we should be fairly competitive, and I think we were. I don’t think they were intimidated or overawed in any way, just that they went up against a team that stepped it up in the second half and we weren’t able to meet that level.

“There has been some criticism of having Brangman at right back, but [Haiti] had their best player over there and he [Brangman] is not really a defender; more a midfield player for Southampton Rangers. We’re playing with wingbacks and he is better going forward than defending. Maybe, in hindsight, we could have said, ‘OK, that’s not his strong suit, we need somebody there like a Roger Lee who is a real good defender’. Of course, you can always say that now that the game is over.”

Darrell expects another tough match tonight when Bermuda play Costa Rica in Texas. “They are going to be tough because of the style they play, which could create another challenge for us,” he warned.

“Thinking back how it was, with the country behind them, they looked like a team that has been well coached.

“If we are constantly playing international games we are going to improve, or at least see what other countries are doing so we know what we need to aim at.

“I’m glad to see that we’re starting to represent and being the best we can be. We just have to keep going and get away from the stop and restarting thing. With the Gold Cup and the Nations League, we are certain of another five games in a short time.

“Another thing was when we had the Bermuda Hogges playing during the summer, all the games were competitive and we had a cause to try to go out and win. It created unity in the team and we were able to build on that.”