Jeremie Cup victory is the perfect send-off for Coulter

BEN COULTER was given the perfect send off at the Track as Saints restored the Jeremie Cup to their trophy cabinet for the first time in a decade.

Chris Le Noury clears his lines for Saints while under pressure from Fin Whitmore. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 29625083)
Chris Le Noury clears his lines for Saints while under pressure from Fin Whitmore. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 29625083)

Only it won’t be sitting there any time soon, despite them winning the final 1-0 against Rovers on Saturday.

St Paul’s inability to return the trophy they won in 2019 to the GFA meant it was the top half of the old Stranger Cup that was held aloft by skipper Chris Le Noury at the end of another hard but ultimately successful day at the ‘office’ for the black-and-whites.

Saints are well used to doing just enough to win and against an honest but goal-shy Rovers, they were able to say sporting goodbye to their midfield Trojan Coulter, who misses the FA Cup final this weekend before heading back to Australia.

Even if he does return, it is unlikely to be in time to resume a first-team career.

This latest cup triumph will only enhance Coulter’s football memories, and they will include the thoughts of a game played on an over-lush surface and Saints nervously protecting their injured goalkeeper in some feisty closing minutes.

Making your way through the St Martin’s defence since Lockdown 2 has been a little like beating the thick traffic which again plagued Les Banques and the top of Track lane before and after the game.

But like the polite driver who unselfishly lets you through a gap in the road, Saints boss Leon Meakin gave Rovers greater hope of through travel into their penalty box by playing safe with the fitness of star defender Jamie Dodd and, in a late change, drafting in Brad O’Regan at Dodd’s expense.

Dodd was on the bench, and Rovers would have also been pleased to see wedding guest Danny Hale absent from the league champions’ attack.

The immediate upshot of Dodd’s absence with a knee injury was for skipper Chris Le Noury to move to the left and, in the main, pick up Rovers goal threat Fin Whitmore.

But the first time Whitmore looked to nip the ball past him, Le Noury was there to nick the ball cleanly off the striker’s toes and as hard as he tried Whitmore got little out of the Saints back-line all sweaty afternoon.

Louis Hunter’s speculative 25-yarder that flew wide was the final’s first serious effort against a defence where Tobi Oluborode was utilised alongside skipper Tom Strawbridge with Ben Le Tocq slotting in at left back for a not fully-fit Louis Graham.

Oluborode went within inches of an opener when Saints struggled to clear a corner and, on the touchline, the Rovers support base will have been cheered by the Port Soif club’s confident start.

But then Saints struck.

Hunter picked out Jake Lowe with a fine ball out to the left, the left back fed the ball onto Cal Le Lacheur and then on to Fraser Maginnis and when he slotted a short reverse pass into Dom Heaume, the veteran striker tucked home a close-range finish.

Just before the hour mark Carlos Canha forced Jason Martin into a good near post block, but until then the Madeiran had been largely a spectator.

It served to bring him to life though and soon after Canha’s 30-yard free-kick curled past a four man wall and the ball fizzed just past the post.

Rovers’ biggest issue was the lack of support for the front two.

The deep-lying central partnership may have been a working safety tactic, but it meant the midfield had too much ground to cover and did not enjoy enough time to get forward when the long balls were being knocked into Whitmore.

It did not help that Aidan McKay, who has been excellent all season at right-back, was having a stinker in a central midfield which badly lacked the control of Frank Tobin and Jack Batiste and the running power of Blair Howitt.

As the second half got under way Rovers appeared to make a conscious effort to play further up the field and win a greater percentage of the physical challenges.

But it was Saints who went close to doubling their lead, Adam Bullock making a fine stop to deny Eti Le Prevost.

With 15min. left Leon Meakin made a triple substitution to freshen things up, Rovers’ one early double change having had no effect.

Dale Webb was one of those changes and his late challenge on the keeper Martin as he desperately tried to latch onto Whitmore’s cross earned him a yellow and it was probably more in the orange territory, if such a thing existed.

As it happened it left Martin badly struggling and hobbling around his six-yard area as play resumed.

In a late flare-up referee Luke Pattimore handed out a further three yellows, while stricken Martin could barely stand up.

To their fans’ annoyance, Rovers twice failed to put him under any threat at promising free-kicks which just about summed up their day.

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