Wanderers soak up taste of Caribbean

Ipswich Wanderers 0 Antigua and Barbuda 2THE sun was shining, the band (Ipswich Caribbean Steel Band) was playing and the spectators were in a laid-back mood.

Ipswich Wanderers 0 Antigua and Barbuda 2

THE sun was shining, the band (Ipswich Caribbean Steel Band) was playing and the spectators were in a laid-back mood.

You could have been forgiven for thinking that you were not at Humber Doucy Lane but on some small Caribbean island, soaking up the atmosphere.

Old friends were greeted; some had come to meet relatives and friends from Antigua, some were here just for the occasion and to pick up a souvenir programme and some were the Wanderers faithful, hoping for an entertaining day out after all the hard work and disappointment of the past season.

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The teams were presented to Cllr David Hale, Mayor of Ipswich, before the game and several members of the Borough Council were spotted in the stands.

Former Ipswich Town coach Bryan Hamilton and assistant manager Willie Donachie, who is now coaching the Caribbean side, were much in demand before the game, and afterwards, with the autograph hunters having a field-day filling their books and programmes with the famous names on show.

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Enjoying the atmosphere were, to name but a few, the Bramble brothers, Tesfaye and Titus, Kevin Beattie - never one to miss an opportunity, with a box full of his new books - Allan Hunter, Charlie Woods, Jason Dozzell, in fact, almost enough for an Ipswich Town all-stars side.

The Antigua side took their time getting acquainted with the pitch and ground, albeit just yards from where they had spent the past two weeks at the Ipswich Town training centre.

Everyone seemed to be on Caribbean time, but not so referee John Lodge, and it almost came as a bit of a surprise when the whistle went to start the game.

The first half was a fairly even affair with the first Antiguan goal coming in the 41st minute when Troy Simon latched on to Gason Gregory's cross to side-foot home from close range.

Just after the hour, Peter Byers, who had looked dangerous all game, netted the second, stabbing the ball home through a crowd of players. There were plenty of substitutions in the second half with Antigua making full use of their squad of 20 players, some making it to the Wanderers squad.

Bryan Hamilton said that it had been a fantastic experience for his boys to play in this country and this had been a good workout for them.

He thanked Ipswich Wanderers for a really warm welcome and for agreeing to host the match.

He said his side faced a tough couple of games against Cuba, but progress to the World Cup qualifiers was the aim and there was plenty of enthusiasm and desire in the team to make the dream come true.

Steve Buckle, Ipswich Wanderers' manager, was delighted with the afternoon and thought that his side had given the Antiguans a really good run for their money, and also thought that Wanderers were unlucky to be behind at the interval.

With Antigua and Barbuda 127th in the FIFA world rankings, Wanderers can confidently lay claim to 128th on this performance in front of 205 spectators.

So, bring on Singapore and see if they can get their spot back!

The party continued after the game, new friends were made, team colours swapped and more autographs signed - a truly great day out for everyone concerned.

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