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10-man Jamaica scrape past Suriname

COREY BURKE finished as the hero for Jamaica in front of the sparse crowd at the National Stadium to help steer the side past Suriname and into the final stages of next year's money-spinning Caribbean Cup.

But for the few hundred who did turn up for Jamaica's must-win tie against relative minnows, the reward was witnessing their first home win since last year's 2-0 friendly triumph over Cuba.

It was far from a vintage performance from the defending Caribbean Cup champions, but the focus was on grinding out a positive result for interim coach Theodore Whitmore - which he achieved with his set of fringe and emerging players.

Whitmore said: "i'm so pleased we won, and that's what we wanted to do.‎"

Having shifted the tie from the Anthony Spaulding Complex to the National Stadium didn't seem to help Jamaica's cause, with such an eerie silence overall.

And after a bitty start, not helped by Whitmore opting for a predictable and ineffective 4-4-2 format, Burke bagged a vital goal.

And it was neat move started by Michael Binns who set up the all important goal, ‎Jamaica's patience paying dividends on ‎the 11-minute mark when Burke made the breakthrough.

Dino Williams latched onto a long pass and skipped down the left wing into the penalty area, then picked out Burke who beat keeper Claidel Kohinor from eight yards.

With the Reggae Boyz finding much-needed confidence following the strike, Burke's second Caribbean Cup goal having scored in Guyana last month, it was left to Whitmore to shake things up after ‎Burke failed to double the lead and pass to Williams instead.

Disaster struck for the hosts on 33 minutes when Damion Lowe - son of former international star Onandi Lowe - was given his marching orders.

Yet the defender deserved to be ‎brandished his red card by Bahamian referee Wilson DaCosta for foolishly treading on an opponent who was grounded.

Owayne Gordon was pulled from right midfield into defence, leaving the Reggae Boyz to try to fend off a tough midfield battle.

‎Misfiring striker Williams, who had wasted two glorious goal-scoring chances, was replaced by right back Oneil Fisher with Burke given the tough role of a traditional no.9 for the second-half.‎ Yet that tactic failed for Whitmore, who was left frustrated in his technical area.

Jamaica's attacking exploits continued to be stifled after the turnaround, restricted to two close efforts - both from corners.

Binns' thunderous left-footer crashed against the post‎ from a deflected corner. Then ‎livewire substitute Romario Williams, given a 20-minute run-out, came close to doubling the lead but side-volleyed his first touch narrowly over the target.

Shotstopper Andre Blake, ‎handed the captain's armband for the first time in the absence of injured midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson, saved the danger on 80 minutes to produce a superb reflex save when the ball had been bouncing around the penalty area.

As Whitmore has narrowly won both of his Caribbean Cup ties and steered the Boyz to both June's semi-final stage and July's Gold Cup tournament then he will undoubtedly be expected to return to the helm.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) axed Whitmore in 2013 for the recently departed head coach Winfried Schäfer, but then there weren't the talents of Claydon Donaldson, Michael Hector and Wes Morgan in Jamaica's ranks.

With Whitmore inheriting a Caribbean Cup squad bereft of European-based talents, to come through the test set by the JFF using ‎just Jamaica's player pool and a sprinkling of those who ply their trade in North America, means that the 44-year-old is in a strong position to be named head coach.

And if given the role again he will fancy lifting the 2017 Caribbean Cup with the qualifiers having seen a number of shock results. The semi-finals will comprise opponents Curaçao, French Guyana and Martinique.

As Whitmore remains the only person to win the Caribbean Cup as both as player (1998) and as a coach (2010), he has every chance - if handed a second shot as head coach - to capture more glory with the Boyz.

JAMAICA: Andre Blake, Dicoy Williams, Rosario Harriott, Damion Lowe, Ewan Grandison, Dwayne Ambursely, Owayne Gordon (Ladale Richie 93), Shaun Francis, Michael Binns, Dino Williams (Oneil Fisher 43), Corey Burke (Romario Williams 70). Subs: Ryan Thompson, Andrew Vanzie, Allan Ottey, Omar Holness

SURINAME: Claidel Kohinor, Saverio Adenie, Joel Baja, Gilberto Eind, Guno Kwasi, Albert Nibte, Stefano Russell, Roxey Fer, Dimitrie Apai, Sergino Eduard, Galgyto Taleo (Ivanildo Rozenblad 72). Subs: Obrendo Huiswound, Mitchell Kisoor, Gregory Pokie, Sorencio Juliaans, Gillermo Faerber, Miguel Darson

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