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Bermuda’s stars ‘will grow from experience’

Seizing the moment: Lejuan Simmons, who opened the scoring against Nicaragua, said he will never forget being part of Bermuda’s Gold Cup campaign (Photograph courtesy of Mexsport)

Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda coach, believes his Concacaf Gold Cup heroes will return home a different side to the one that left the island a fortnight ago.

Not only did Lightbourne’s side claim an historic first win, defeating Nicaragua 2-0 in their final group B game at the Red Bull Arena yesterday, they also proved they more than belong at the top table of regional football.

With matches against powerhouses Mexico City and Panama in League A of the inaugural Nations League in the autumn, Lightbourne believes his evolving team have laid down strong foundations.

“The emotions are real for us,” Lightbourne said. “It was important for us to get the result today [yesterday].

“I thought we deserved a result out of the last two games [against Haiti and Costa Rica], but it was important to get that [win] off our back.

“In our first tournament, we showed up in every game and weren’t afraid to play.

“We will have to look at the positives when we debrief, but I think we go back to Bermuda in a different light, as a team and as a unit. We’ll take a little break and then get ready for the Nations League.”

Even so, Lightbourne admits there is still a sense of what might have been had his side displayed more of a ruthless streak in front of goal, particularly during the first half of their opening game against Haiti, which they lost 2-1.

“We have shown we can compete, but we have to be better in front of goal,” Lightbourne said.

“If we were better in front of goal in our first two matches, we could be looking at seven points.

“You don’t know how teams will react against you when you score against them, especially if you score first.

“We told the players just to keep hitting the target [against Nicaragua]. If we hit the target, the goalkeeper has to save it.

“One was cleared off the line from Nahki [Wells] and Zeiko [Lewis] had a shot saved, which was possibly going into the bottom corner.”

Lightbourne, who took over the coaching reins from Andrew Bascome 12 months ago, said he was encouraged by the way his players “took the sting out of the game” after the second goal.

“I thought our game management was very good towards the end,” he said. “That’s still a crucial part of the game. If they score a goal at that point, they would have kept on coming.

“We knew we could catch them on the break and the first goal was exactly what we’ve worked on.

“We swapped the wingers [Lejuan Simmons and Zeiko Lewis] around just to give them a different angle. We’ve learnt that we have to do different things at times. It was a great ball by Lejuan for the second goal and that finish was typical Nahki Wells.”

Simmons, who scored Bermuda’s opener against Nicaragua, said the Gold Cup has been an experience he will never forget.

“I was telling the professional players in the changing room, ‘Wow, you get to experience this every week’,” the Robin Hood winger said.

“I wish I could do it every weekend. I got a goal and it was a memorable one; it’s one to tell my kids about farther down the line.”

Stephen Wright travelled to New Jersey courtesy of Jet Blue, which provided flights between Frisco, Texas, and Boston. Flights available from www.jetblue.com