Trinidad and Tobago football coach Dennis Lawrence has hailed the character shown by his players on Saturday evening, as they battled from two goals down in the 87th minute to earn a 2-2 draw against Grenada, in a friendly international at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
Shandon Baptiste (48th minute) and Ricky Modeste (71st) found the back of the net for the Grenadians, before substitute Jamille Boatswain (87th) and captain Kevin Molino (90th) responded with late strikes for the hosts to save their blushes.
“I want to compliment the players on the character they showed to get back into that game the way they did,” said Lawrence, during the post-match interview. “I thought Grenada were very well-organised (and) made it extremely difficult for us. And they worked extremely hard. We had to dig deep.”
The kick-off time was pushed from 6 pm to 7.30 pm as the Grenadians encountered flight issues. But the visitors seemed destined for a deserved victory until the late-game heroics by the hosts.
“Grenada is one of the countries in the Caribbean that you can see the progress they’re trying to make,” Lawrence said, “There are a few things that we need to work on. Our passing sometimes was very erratic. We need to concentrate a bit more on these things.”
In contrast to the views of many, particularly the estimated 2,000 fans on hand, Lawrence noted, “In the first half I was quite comfortable because I felt we were in control of the game.”
But he pointed out, “Football is a game that things happen and you have to respond. And the boys responded well.”
Captaining T&T for the first time was attacking midfielder Kevin Molino who was banned for a couple World Cup qualifiers by former coach Stephen Hart a year ago due to disciplinary issues.
“Me and (the) coach talked and he thinks I’m the most senior player on the team, and I lead by example,” the 27 year old Molino said. “I (took) up the opportunity to captain the team and I led the team well.” A number of T&T players looked off the boil, but it was only after Modeste made it 2-0 that Lawrence started to make changes to the on-field personnel.
The T&T coach stated, “The substitutions (were) two-fold. One, we wanted to give players the opportunity to play 90 minutes. We’ve got two games in four days and the idea is to use the entire squad for the two games.
“We had to leave players on the pitch for as long as possible because mentally I had to push the players,” added the ex-T&T central defender.
“Then we were chasing the game and we thought these were the substitutions we were going to make to try and affect the game, which I think they did.”
A shock inclusion, in the dying stages, was debutant striker Ricardo John, who plays for Toronto FC II in the United Soccer League.
Lawrence explained, “When we were going into the camp, I was informed that he was in Trinidad. We had the situation with Shahdon (Winchester) who couldn’t be here for this game.
“(John) trained with us, he did very well and I thought I would give him the opportunity to be part of the squad.”