Sport

Dream start for Duckie for Duckie and Mount Pleasant in RSPL

BY DWAYNE RICHARDS
Observer writer

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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All eyes were on debutants Mount Pleasant Football Academy on Sunday in the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL).

Dubbed the “moneybags” by many, there were huge expectations of a squad that was carefully put together by head coach Donovan Duckie, who had only last season taken Waterhouse from the bottom of the league to the final of the RSPL.

Waterhouse faltered in the final, losing to Portmore United and as fate would have it, they were the first opponents for Duckie and Mount Pleasant in their first game ever in top-flight football in the country.

With the likes of Ladale Richie and Ronaldo Rodney (both of whom Duckie had coached at Montego Bay United) starting in a strong midfield and Devon Hodges being flanked by the speedy pair of Cardel Benbow and Kemar Beckford (former Waterhouse players who were also coached by Duckie last season), Mount Pleasant were obviously a team not to be taken lightly.

After only six minutes into their first game, the signal was sent to the rest of the league when Hodges made history by becoming the first player to score for Mount Pleasant in the RSPL.

The champions Portmore United showed that they too were made of stern stuff when they responded through Rosario Harriott to draw the game level five minutes later. But a Suelae McCalla header in the third minute of added time at the end of the game enabled the new boys to snatch all three points and record a famous victory.

Speaking with reporters after the game, Duckie said he had expected a very tough challenge from the champions.

“We knew it would be difficult for us to come here. First of all, it's Portmore United and there is no doubt that they have probably the best project in the country, this is why they have been predominant in the league, year after year.

“It's no luck why they are in the CFU, they have about five games under their belt, which we don't have, international games, so we knew that probably we could play for 60-70 minutes with them.”

With virtually a new team to start the season, Duckie explained that a lot was done in many areas to have the players ready and up to the task from day one.

“We wanted to be ideologically in sync, we did a lot of off-the-field work to improve our solidarity. We tried a lot of team-building exercises for them to know each other,” he explained.

The National Under-23 head coach says that he had to make some tactical adjustments early in the game to contain Portmore United.

“Their transition from defence to attack bothered us a lot throughout the game, we had to make some adjustments in terms of getting some people into some positions, controlling certain spaces on the field, so we took away some options from them.”

He admitted that his team was playing for a draw as the minutes ticked away, which would have been a good result in the first game of the season.

“I thought in the second half the game was evenly poised for a 1-1 draw, which I thought in the end would have been a fair result. We knew that the game was finished, so we managed the game in the latter stages.

“We were playing for a draw but we saw the opportunity for us to get a chance in the last and I thought we made good use of it and it's a good three points to start the season. I always say with good preparation and the element of luck there can be big dividends for you.”

Always the pragmatist, Duckie suggested that there was still a lot left for his team to get right.

“I am not satisfied with the team performance, what I am satisfied with is the way we played resolute, we were stout in defence, there were some good things about the game if you put it in perspective. But I thought we were let down by our transition, we weren't sharp enough,” he reasoned.

After a rip-roaring preseason, the experienced Premier League coach believes that now is the time that the true test of his team will come.

“This (game) gives us a good analysis. We have gone seven games in preseason, we have won all seven but you only find the true analysis of any game in the competitive season. This is our first game, so there is a lot to take back.”

He also heaped praises on the travelling supporters who did their best to be heard for the 90 minutes.

“The most positive thing today I thought was our fans. They were beautiful, they were the 12th man, they supported us, we felt like it was home. Whenever we looked up we saw blue, so that was also a motivation for us,” he said.

Duckie has also promised that the team will keep their feet firmly planted on the ground, despite taking down the defending champions on day one of the season.

“We hand-picked 17 players for the project, we have a lot of experience, we won't get carried away, we understand that we did a lot of things badly and the game could have gone either way.”

Up next for Mount Pleasant is a home game at Drax Hall against Waterhouse FC, a match which is sure to fill the stadium to capacity on Sunday.

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