We had a very solid start to life with The Reggae Boyz with 1 defeat in 6 friendly games in 2020. 2021 would be a different challenge all together as we continue to build momentum through 4 friendlies before we embark on our first taste of tournament football in the 2021 North American Gold Cup.
Match 7 - Friendly - Wednesday 24/03/21 - Tahiti (H)
This has quickly become our favoured system and a very settled starting 11. We have a few Club instructions asking for players to only feature for 45 minutes over the next two friendlies so there will be a chance for some rotation.
We were heavy favourites for this clash with Tahiti and we quickly asserted our dominance in the first half. Kemar Roofe latched onto an Antonio flick on and lofted the ball over the stranded keeper.
Johnson then made it 2-0 after reacting quickest of all after a game of pinball in the Tahiti box. Roofe grabbed his second of the game just before half time with a tap in after Bailey's free kick was tipped onto the bar by the unfortunate keeper.
Jamal Lowe powered in a back post header to make it 4-0 in the second half before Roofe completed his hattrick with yet another tap in after Lowe had hit the post with a header.
A comfortable 5-0 victory.
Match 8 - Friendly -Saturday 27/03/21- New Zealand (H)
A couple of changes were made for the visit of New Zealand. Antonio was moved up top with Nathan Redmond starting on the right wing. Blackett was given the nod at left back and Kasey Palmer was preferred to Daniel Johnston.
The game against New Zealand was the worst performance since this journey began. Although we took an early lead through Kasey Palmer. we were so wasteful with our chances.
14 shots with only 4 on target, the forwards really need to find their shooting boots.
The fact that the press described it as a "Barrage" shows how dominant we were.
Match 9 - Friendly - Wednesday 9/6/21 - Republic of Ireland
After the poor attacking performance last time out against New Zealand I reverted back to our strongest starting 11.
Ireland would be the toughest test of this run of friendlies and the proved that over the 90 minutes. Although again our downfall was our performance in front of goal, having 19 shots with 8 on target.
Connor Hourihane put the Irish in front with a stunning effort from outside the box on 36 minutes. We pressed and pressed for the rest of the first half without any joy.
In fact we dominated for the rest of the game wasting chance after chance until finally in the 95th minute Jamal Lowe volleyed into the back of the net. The game finished 1-1.
Match 10 - Friendly - Tuesday 15/6/21 - Northern Ireland - (H)
After Lowes last minute equaliser against Ireland I decided he deserved a chance from the start against Northern Ireland. Bailey was rested too with Demarai Gray starting in the left wing.
This would be our last friendly before the Gold Cup kicks off in July.
We had been struggling for goals in the least few games, but nobody would have guessed after this result. Bobby Decordova-Reid started us off on the right foot with a close range finish.
Demarai Gray took his opportunity in the starting line up with both hands to put us 2-0 up.
Two defensive lapses caused us to throw that 2 goal lead away and after 21 minutes we were 2-2. By half time we were back in control after two quickfire goals from Antonio. 4-2 at HT.
The second half was much of the same. Kemar Roofe made it 5-2 before Bailey made it 6-2 on 67 minutes. Norther Ireland scored again to make it 6-3 but soon after the 4 goal lead was restored as Bailey got his 2nd of the game.
Where had this been the last 2 games?!
Gold Cup Build Up
The Gold Cup was now fast approaching, the groups were drawn and as one of the 4 seeded teams we were handed a favourable draw.
The fixtures for the group stages are below.
After assessing the squad through the 10 friendlies we've had since I took over it was a relatively easy squad decision.
So this is it. Preparation is over and we are about to embark on our first experience of Tournament football and the first chance to show that all the new recruits were worthwhile.
Don't miss the next episode where we will cover the entirety of our Gold Cup Journey.