Birmingham City striker Donaldson makes instant impact for Reggae Boyz

Thursday, November 19, 2015

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Watching from the lofty perch of the National Stadium Grandstand, something special caught the eye of Head Coach Winfried Schaefer.


From his vantage point, at least two things were visibly clear from up there during the Reggae Boyz's 0-2 defeat to Panama on Friday.


Firstly, his team gave one of, if not, the worst performance since the start of the German's reign. And secondly, a bright spark came shining through in the shape of Clayton Donaldson, who was making his debut for the Boyz.


As a second-half substitute in the ugly rendition last week, even as his team wallowed in their miserable night, the Birmingham City striker was the bright spark showing glimpses of quality.


His ability to hold up the ball, hustle defenders, his industry and aerial prowess have won the hearts of the Jamaican fans. But they were not alone, Schaefer was smitten too.


The German watched the Kingston disaster from the stand as he was serving a FIFA-imposed one-match ban arising from an incident during the second-leg round three World Cup qualifying tie against Nicaragua away.


For Tuesday night's CONCACAF Group B World Cup qualifying game against Haiti, where the Boyz gave a vastly improved performance, Donaldson was selected as Jamaica's lone striker in a 4-4-1-1 system as the coach had to improvise with a number of key players out due to injury or other reasons.


It was a well-placed bet by Schaefer as the gamble paid handsome dividends. The six-foot-one-inch striker scored Jamaica's only goal in a 1-0 victory at the Stade Sylvio Cator in the Haitian capital, silencing the 20,000 fans packed inside the stadium walls.


The 63rd-minute goal, a blistering header from a Demar Phillips right-sided cross, was a precious gem as it gave Jamaica three vital points that got their Russia 2018 campaign back on track.


After the game, Donaldson was "over the moon" and "speechless".


"Words can't describe how I am feeling right now, it's a great feeling, a great honour, and I have dreamt about this moment for a long time and to actually start and getting the winning goal and the three points, I couldn't ask for anymore.


"Right now I am just over the moon -- I am speechless."


He has said publicly with every opportunity he got that his singular goal is to help the team reach its collective goal, and that's qualifying for the World Cup.


And he has delivered on that promise with aplomb.


"I just wanted to do myself, my family and the fans proud. I am that kind of player who likes to put myself about for the team and to help the team," he told the Jamaica Observer.


In the 11th minute of the physical contest, the Boyz got a scare when then threatening Donaldson crumbled in a heap after an aerial bust-up with Haiti goalkeeper Johny Placide and a defender.


"I felt a little twinge in my groin, but it was more like a muscle spasm or a tight cramp, so it was taking a little time to ease off, but it wasn't easing off, so I thought it was something serious, so I came off and did a couple groin stretches to test and see if I actually tore something, but it was really just a muscle spasm.


But he was dreading even something more.


"It was my first game starting and I didn't want to come off, I just wanted to carry on playing as I had a feeling I could get a goal today (Tuesday), but I am that kind of player who is always giving 100 per cent whether I am injured or not," said the former Hull City man.


"After the knock at best I was about 80 per cent because I felt restricted as I was still sore and I didn't feel like I could open up as well as I wanted to, so I just decided to keep it simple because I couldn't move as sharp as I was still a little bit sore," he noted.


Regarding the overall performance of the team, Donaldson believed it redeemed itself rather impressively.


"It was a totally different performance to Friday's, as we compacted the midfield as we needed to win the game and I thought we did that... we were very solid and everyone was confident on the ball, so we created chances and caused them (Haiti) problems.


"I think overall it was a great performance and I think our hard work paid off and I think we deserve the win."


But as he celebrated his first goal for his country, Donaldson could not ignore the electrifying atmosphere inside the Stade Sylvio Cator on the night.


"It was unbelievable as you could hear the crowd singing and the band playing, and I had to make a little video to capture the moment as I am not used to seeing that," he said.


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