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Battling Reggae Boyz claw their way back in Barbados

PICTURED: Reggae Boyz

PETER-LEE Vassell's late penalty helped battling Jamaica register an entertaining 2-2 draw against hosts Barbados at the Wildey Turf on Monday (Aug 20).

Although it was far from a high calibre friendly, it provided endless excitement for the enthusiastic crowd on the astroturf pitch inside the Sir Garfield Complex.

Vassell, making only his fifth appearance for Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, made no mistake from the spot to earn a share of the spoils.

The 20-year-old Harbour View striker took over the responsibility of shooting after Fabian McCarthy had fluffed his second-half spot-kick.

Following Friday's comprehensive 5-1 victory over Grenada that included a Vassell brace, Jamaica head coach Whitmore shuffled his side for a more stern test.

Arnett Gardens FC keeper Damion Hyatt replaced the reliable Amal Knight, while club team-mate Marvin Morgan - who made his international debut to help Jamaica win the 2009 Caribbean Cup - and Cavalier SC's Chevone Marsh also got the nod.

Fabian Reid, who provided two goal assists against Grenada, was thrown in at the deep-end as a lone striker as Daniel Green - who netted on Friday - was out injured following a knock in the last game.

Attack-minded Vassell sat behind Reid with Kevaughn Isaacs, Marsh, Morgan and Tevin Shaw bossing the midfield.

Skipper Ladale Richie organised the at times shakydefence, joined by McCartney, Ajeanie Talbott and Ricardo Thomas.

Barbados, who suffered a shock 1-0 defeat in Belize earlier this month, played second fiddle throughout the opening half yet were clinical in front of goal so entered the interval with a two-goal cushion courtesy of strikes from Rashad Jules and the impressive Zico Edmee.

The Boyz had cut out chances but lacked the finishing touch, and were punished to by conceding the overdue opener on 33 minutes.

A close-range effort from Jules took a wicked deflection off Marsh to cruelly loop over the head of stunned Hyatt.

And this breakthrough briefly left the visitors chasing shadows as Barbados went hell for leather to try to net again.

It was only a matter of time before Barbados doubled their lead, Edmee tapping in with a minute of the first-half remaining.

Yet Jamaica kept their cool and showed their battling spirit after the turnaround, rewarded with a penalty after Vassell was brought down.

They could not seize their chance as McCarthy’s tame 48th-minute effort was stopped by keeper Kishmar Primus, who dived low to his right but got injured in the process of being a hero.

Veteran Jason Boxhill took over between the sticks from Primus and had to be sharp immediately to brilliantly deny the Boyz three times within the space of 10 minutes that included Vassell's telling free-kick that he magnificently parried around the right post.

Boxhill, the 35-year-old shotstopper,was tirelessly bombarded further in the closing exchanges to become the busiest player on the pitch.

He could not prevent Morgan from finally reduced the arrears with 10 minutes remaining, the thunderous 15-yarder across the face of goal giving Boxhill no chance.

Vassell, unquestionably Jamaica’s most impressive player, then stepped up to hammer home an 86th-minute spot-kick after Raheem Sargeant handled to earn the Boyz a stalemate score draw.

Whitmore s said: "We need to be a bit more organised and compact regardless of the opponents.

"And concentrate on closing down players much more quickly as well as decision-making in the final third of the field."

He was impressed with Vassell and admitted: "We've seen him grow over a number of games he has played for the national team.

"The question for me now is how far does Peter-Lee Vassell want to go from here because we tend to see a lot of players believe that they have “reached” where they want and take their foot off the pedal - but I have to encourage him to keep his head in the right place going forward.”

Next up for the Boyz is the hastily arranged friendly against South America outfit Ecuador in New Jersey, United States on 7 September. And two days later the fortress of Kingston's National Stadium will see minnows Cayman Islands visit to kick-off their CONCACAF Nations League.

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