A pair of subpar results during pool play derailed the national championship hopes of the Magnuson Ford Mariners FC under-18 boys squad.
Earlier in the week at the national tourney, held in Fredricton, N.B., the Mariners were in the driver’s seat in Pool A after winning their first two matches over the representatives from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
But on Friday, they came out flat against FC Northwest of Manitoba, and dropped a 3-1 decision. Then on Saturday, they dominated play against St-Hubert of Quebec, but settled for a 1-1 draw.
The Mariners, having completed pool play with a 2-1-1 record, needed both Manitoba and Quebec to either lose or tie their respective matches on Sunday in order to win their pool and advance to Monday’s championship game.
But it wasn’t to be – Manitoba blitzed PEI 5-0, and Quebec pounded New Brunswick 6-0. The St-Hubert squad advanced to the title game based on goal differential, while the Mariners were relegated to the fifth-sixth placing game on Monday against Mount Pearl of Newfoundland.
“You’ve got no divine right to win – you’ve got to earn what you get,” Mariners head coach Alan Errington noted. “It’s a little bit disappointing, for sure. It’s part of the learning experience for the boys. They realize a little bit more effort, and they’d be in the final.”
On Friday, the Mariners grabbed a 1-0 lead on Colton O’Neill’s penalty kick, but Manitoba came roaring back with three unanswered goals.
On Saturday, a defensive mix-up allowed Quebec to take a 1-0 lead in the opening minute. The Mariners dominated from that point, but it took them until the 88th minute to get the equalizer. That came courtesy of Sahib Phagura, who converted off an Andy Phillips corner.
“The boys have been very good overall,” Errington noted. “They’ve been very professional in the way they’ve gone about things, and their performance was disappointing in one game only.”