Eagles drag Cougars into relegation fight
Somerset Eagles 2 Devonshire Cougars 1
Somerset Eagles made a huge step in the fight for survival with a vital victory over Devonshire Cougars at White Hill Field yesterday.
Cougars started the ball rolling with some quick possession and created an early chance, with striker Allan Douglas flashing his shot wide from distance.
However, when the home side won the ball back, they were often dangerous on the counter attack.
The visiting side failed to break down Eagles’ defence early on, and the home side gradually started to take control in midfield.
Teniko Eve was the chief orchestrator of that, and he got himself into some excellent positions to create a few chances to go ahead.
First, he headed wide after being unmarked after a free kick whipped in by striker Tahj Wade in the thirteenth minute.
Soon after, he made a driving run past a few defenders before firing a shot high without troubling goalkeeper Ajai Daniels.
As this match continued at a decent tempo, the visiting side finally took control of the midfield battle for good towards the end of the first half.
Jayori Fox, the young midfielder, created the best look for the Friendship Trophy runners-up, firing a strong shot that was beautifully saved by Eagles stopper Lorenzo Lambert.
Soon thereafter, the home side lost their control when in possession on several occasions near the climax of the first stanza.
Midfielder Chris Caisey and others started to exploit that, creating several more openings than were seen early in the period.
Although Eagles remained a threat from set-pieces, most evidently illustrated when captain Anwar Telford shot wide after a corner was headed clear, Cougars looked the more likely to open the scoring.
Zari Simmons curled a free kick into the side netting with just under a quarter-hour remaining.
The visiting side did get their reward, although it came from another defensive lapse, with five minutes left of the first half.
Striker Douglas turned provider for his third assist of the season. Defender Shentoine Lambert slipped as a ball was played back to him.
Douglas squared to captain Caisey to tap in past Lambert to give coach Vance Brown’s side a deserved lead.
Eagles responded by making a substitute, bringing off Kieran Evans for Geno Smith due to a suspected injury just before halftime.
Cougars started the second half as they ended the first. Attacker Trey Tucker nearly doubled their lead when he curled an early shot wide past Lambert’s far post just one minute after the restart.
During that first 15-minute spell, the visiting side were more aggressive and determined in their approach out of possession, which caused Eagles to give the ball away more often in midfield.
Coach Jensen Rogers decided to bring on midfielder Dane Simmons for winger Ethan Fubler to provide some more cover in the middle third.
The move stabilised the “engine room” a little bit, but still the visiting side were able to penetrate and create chances. Douglas finally got into a decent position just outside the box near the right flank, but he just cut his chip too fine and wide of Lambert’s near post, as the 37-year-old looked totally beaten.
Eagles finally got their act together on both ends of the pitch, and they got their reward for some forward pressing.
Lambert atoned for his first-half error with an excellent assist, as his low cross was deflected in the path of Wade, who curled a deft shot past Daniels to level the scores with 20 minutes left.
Upon Eagles’ goal, Brown made his first change, an enforced one with the dangerous Tucker being replaced by fellow winger Shakii Pearman with about 15 minutes to go due to an upper body injury.
As the game rolled on and subsequently opened up, with some fascinating end-to-end action, Cougars’ substitute goalkeeper Kioshi Trott was booked for dissent after a call by referee Martin Wyer.
Moments later, the visiting side started to lose some discipline and control of their game, with Zekiro White being cautioned for a deliberate handball just outside the area.
At this stage, Eagles began putting the visiting defence under incessant pressure. Wingers Rayquan Woodley-Smith and Marcus Simmons began “bombing” forward when the hosts had the ball.
Simmons would have his chance, but he sent a header wide from another decent delivery from open play, with eight minutes remaining.
Douglas’s day was marred with his first yellow card with four minutes to play, for taking down Simmons just outside the eighteen-yard box.
Eagles tried another strategy, bringing off top scorer Wade who was replaced by Medeiros, one of their stand-in captains.
The move paid off, because Simmons and Medeiros provided a shelter for the defenders to come forward with intent, especially the centre halves. In the dying moments, just as this game would have headed for a draw, the promoted side took their final chance of the day.
Rego had a hard shot blocked on the edge of the area, but the ball fell to Telford, who turned past one defender before beating Daniels at his near post. Telford was booked for taking off his shirt upon celebration.
The match finished with both benches voicing their disappointment at the decisions made by referee Wyer.
Caisey was booked in the fifth minute of stoppage time, while Douglas lost his cool two minutes later, and was sent off for his second yellow card just before the final whistle.
Eagles held on to jump right back into the survival dogfight and on 18 points, just two points behind Cougars on 20.
Wade 69, Telford 90+3
Somerset Eagles (4-4-2): L Lambert - S Lambert, K Evans (sub: G Smith 41min), L Burch, M Iris-Simmons - R Woodley-Smith, A Telford, T Eve, E Fubler (sub: D Simmons, 65) - N Rego, T Wade (sub: C Medeiros, 90). Substitutes not used: R Ford III, J Rumley, C Smith. Booked: Telford.
Devonshire Cougars (4-3-3): A Daniels - D Williams, Zekiro White, C Maybury, Z Simmons - J Fox, Zeko White, J Mouchette - T Tucker (sub: S Pearman 71), A Douglas Jr, C Caisey. Substitutes not used: J Furbert-Wade, N Simmons, R Young, K Mills-Wilson, K Trott. Booked: Caisey, Trott, Brown (coach), Zekiro White. Sent off: A Douglas.
Referee: M Wyer.