Jade Tree United faced off at home against third placed Valley Strikers on Saturday, February 3.
Jade Tree, well aware that they were facing one of the most intense challenges of the season as they met the team just below them in points, were happy to welcome back Michael Hoffman and Shane Chanpaul to the first team after both had been out with mild injuries the last few weeks.
The crowd was prepared for the showdown and supporters from both sides were in attendance, though no trouble marred the night.
Both teams were up for it as the match began.
Jade Tree, who had been slow to act in the opening minutes of their recent matches, once again lacked spirit in the opening minutes.
JTU was lucky to keep the Strikers at bay and eventually took the lead in the 18th minute when Ryan Mann spun and nailed the ball past the keeper.
Both teams struggled with possession for the next few minutes until the Strikers broke through the Jade Tree defenses and tied it up 1-1 in the 14th minute.
Jade Tree then pushed forward with Michael Hoffman leading the troops. Unfortunately, Hoffman was denied a series of shots on net by the Striker’s goalie. As other Jade Tree players peppered the Striker’s net, it was to no avail until Shane Chanpaul took the ball from Mike Leyva on a break and sent Jade Tree up 2-1.
But the lead did not last long as Valley Strikers hit back instantly and equalized once again.
The Strikers then sensed the JTU attack waning and pounced on the opportunity, eventually putting them up 2-3 as the first half ended.
Visibly exhausted, Jade Tree took to the pitch for the second half with a lineup much like they ended the first half.
The JTU players rallied each other on and it seemed to make a difference as Shane Chanpaul was right on target to beat the Striker’s â€˜keeper and let fly a volley that went wide right and put JTU on level terms at 3-3.
Strikers did not sit back and began pressing the Jade Tree defenses for a stretch that lasted 10 minutes. In this time, the Strikers were able to add to their tally, making the score 3-4, before surging ahead and adding four more to their take.
Jade Tree, now down by five goals with twelve minutes to go, began to attack with ferocity. The team picked up the pace and strung together play after play that eventually was saved by the excellent work of the Striker’s goalie.
Shane Chanpaul and Ryan Mann combined for Jade Tree’s fourth of the night when Mann bested the Striker’s defensive line and dumped the ball into the path of Chanpaul in the box, who converted it easily.
Hoping that the Strikers were tiring, Jade Tree kept up the pressure, but it would be to no avail as they were handily beaten 4-8.
The gaffer denied all requests for interviews as the team remained in the dressing room long after the match for what was surely a long talk.
Jade Tree United meet first place Gunners on Tuesday, February 6 in what is sure to be a huge match for the team.