The Southern Gazette
The beauty of sports is you never know what a new season will bring. This season we have experienced some improved clubs, and we have also seen some teams that their play must be described as major disappointments. At this time I will share with you my views on the play of all five Provincial Challenge Cup teams.
Holy Cross/The Dock: This team has an abundance of youth that possess sheer raw talent.The club has a good crop of strikers with great goal scoring ability. Corey Moore and Aaron Anstey, along with John Hawco, all know where the net is and all are capable of putting the ball in it. In mid-field Holy Cross is led by Zack Wade, the most talented mid-fielder in the province. While Craig Edwards has brought maturity to this team in the middle, Edwards’s career was mostly played as an all-star center back. Jeff Slaney, Adam Bury, Jake Warren and Blaire Peters are good young players that are only experience away from becoming great players. Holy Cross has an ample backline. Jeremy Babcock is solid while Ryan Yetman’s greatest asset is his strong physical presence. Brian Reddy, Chris Pope and Andrew Stanford are adequate back liners.In goal, veteran Scott Edwards has the smarts and the athletic ability to get the job done. Cross also has a solid bench.
Coach’s Corner Comments: Holy Cross is a hard working team that is well coached. They are by far the most improved team in the league this season.
St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians: The Laurentians haven’t gotten over the loss of strikers Richard Kelly and Mike Howlett. Laurentians’ 2008 midfielder Rudy Norman is again playing in the striking position. Although, Rudy works extremely hard and has a super shot, he hasn’t got the finishing touch of a natural goal scorer. He has an excellent work ethic; he runs the field better than anyone in the league, but he needs to get more creative with his team-mates and become poised inside the box. In mid-field, the Laurentians are mediocre this season. Paul Slaney, although he is having his best season ever in the goal-scoring department, needs to focus himself a little better on being capable of running the field. Veteran Andrew Perrott, who has showed early signs of his age, has steadily improved since the season began. Both Ryan Slaney and Peter Greene have had some good moments but they have yet to play with any form of consistency. The Laurentians are very strong on the backline when Marc Pittman, Clinton Edwards, Darren Pike and Adam Loder are used in this position as starters. In goal, John Douglas may have had a few cloudy moments, but one must realize these sorts of things may happen when a player plays with great intensity and has a huge desire to win. Despite Douglas’s bleak moments, I still feel he remains the league’s best keeper. On the bench the Laurentians have players that for most part just sit and wait to be given a chance to play for 15 to 30 minutes at the Challenge Cup level. I feel these players have done a great job under very trying circumstances.
Coach Corner Comments: This has not been a season that Laurentian fans are accustomed to, but one should realize this season is far from over.
Mount Pearl/That Pro Look/Molson: Mount Pearl is becoming a good solid team quite capable of defeating Holy Cross or St. Lawrence. When their strikers are on their game, Justin Pickford and Ryan Caines can create havoc for the opponents. Caines is a very much under-rated striker. Sean Drew is starting to regain form. I like the potential of young Tyler Forsey. This kid has a bright future ahead of him and he has been very impressive when he’s given the chance to play. In mid-field, Shane Antle, who is playing with a lot of confidence this season, leads Mount Pearl. Mark Reddy, Ian Power, Ian MacLeod and Michael Luther are solid but these players need to get their nose dirty and become involved and start contributing more offensively. Now that Jon Kelly and Gord Ryan are paired up on defence, Mount Pearl has become solid in this position. Andrew Murphy has had a super season to date. Mount Pearl goalkeeping is a little questionable. Tyler Putt can be brilliant but he has also allowed a few too many soft goals. Mount Pearl has a solid bench.
Coach Corner Comments: Mount Pearl could have very well been in the top two seeds this season, if they had gotten a few breaks. The team is improving, and playing stronger each game. On Labour Day this squad could be heard from. The Upper Smallwood Pitch, which is to be the host of the Provincial Challenge Cup Championships, is very conducive to the style of play of the Mount Pearl team.
Feildians Ernst & Young Orenda:What a difference a season makes! Last year, Feildians were the most improved club, while this year they are certainly the league’s biggest disappointment. Jay Babstock, the upfront newcomer has struggled. Matthew Wilkins appeared in uniform for a few games but then he disappeared. Zack Hynes is a player that gives it his all but he has very little support.In mid-field, David Webb, who had a career year in 2008, is just not the same player in 2009. Johnny Acreman, the captain of the Feildians’ team is a strong defender but has not adjusted to the pace of the mid-field position very well. Chris Burry, who was a contender for ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2008, is another one of those athletes who is going through the sophomore jinx. Chris Roche appears to be more focussed and has been a bright spot for the team. This year’s backline, led by Colin Power, backed by Ryan Sheppard, Colin Browne and Steve Howell has allowed too many scoring chances and as a result, the Feildians have the worst goals against in the league. This may be a result of the squad having two unproven goalkeepers, Michael Bartellas and Matthew Simms.
Coach Corner Comments: When a team can’t put the ball in the opponent’s net and can’t keep the ball out of their own net, they could be in for a long season. This statement may very well explain the Feildians in 2009.
Western United F.C.: This is a team comprised of a number of experienced players plus a lot of youth and because of this mixture, this team can compete. The most prominent player on this team is all-star Kevin Oram, Greg Keats, who patrols the team’s backline, is the team’s top defender. He also has played with MUN’s soccer team and is a very solid player. Veterans Colin Lynch, Corey Rideout, Clarence Bennett, Mark Fitzpatrick, Todd Warren and Pat Fewer make this team fairly respectable. The team has added young Steven Hobbs, who was a late drop from the NL Provincial Canada Games Team, and has a bright future ahead of him as a future leader on this team.
Coach Corner Comments: The experiment of the NLSA allowing the Western representative a one-year pilot project of re-entering the league on a reduced schedule appears to have worked.The Western squad, when playing at home, have drawn good crowds. They have competed with all teams in the league both at home and on the road. At the present time Western United F.C. is in fourth place, making them eligible for the 2009 Provincial Challenge Cup playoffs.
Gord Dunphy is a former 1990s Challenge Cup All-Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org