FC Halifax Town: ”It was a great experience” - Allen proud to be playing his part with Montserrat
Taking three touches of the ball to settle himself, Jamie Allen then delivers a curling, swooping cross to the far post that is met with a powerful header into the net.
It’s a goal that produces a hugely significant result in the history of Montserrat national football team.
That 89th minute equaliser by Nottingham Forest striker and Montserrat captain Lyle Taylor secured a draw against El Salvador, a nation who have featured at two World Cups and sit 113 places above them.
It was the second of two World Cup qualifiers for Montserrat, who are managed by former Man City and Scotland defender Willie Donachie and are ranked 183rd in the world.
Four days earlier, on March 24, Montserrat had only managed a disappointing 2-2 draw with Antigua and Barbuda, but there was nothing disappointing about a point against El Salvador.
“It was a great experience, we played two good teams, it was good to get away and be involved in both games,” said Allen, who now has four caps for Montserrat.
“It’s strange to me, travelling the world and playing football with different players, but you adapt quite quickly.
“The first time I went, I knew a few players so it was easier to settle in and get used to it.
“But the fact that I’m away travelling and playing football, it’s fantastic you can’t complain.
“The first game against Antigua, we should have won, we were very disappointed to come away with a point in that game.
“But against El Salvador we put in a fantastic performance, nobody expected us to win or get anything from that game but we managed to get a point and probably could have won it at the end.
“El Salvador’s the big team in the group, I believe they’ve got players playing in the MLS, so they’re expected to beat everyone really.
“So for us to get a point against them was fantastic, and at the end we could have won it.
“It shows how far we’ve come as a team that we came off the pitch disappointed with a point against El Salvador.”
Montserrat have two more World Cup qualifiers in June against US Virgin Islands and Grenada.
They will need to win both their remaining games and hope other results go their way for them to top their group.
They would then play a two-legged tie against one of the five other group winners from the CONCACAF region.
If they won that, would go into a final, eight team group including Mexico, the USA and Jamaica, in which the top three teams qualify and the fourth-placed side goes into a play-off.
“We’ve done well to get this far but we’ve just got to focus on winning games.
“Nobody expects us to win the group but we believe we can, we’ve just got to win both those games (in June) and hopefully somebody puts in a result our way, and who knows what can happen,” said Allen, who qualifies to play for Montserrat through his grandmother.
“It’d be difficult, but you never say never in football, stranger things have happened.
“It (playing in a World Cup) would be a dream come true, but that’s a long way off, all we’ve got to do is just stick together, play our football and who knows what can happen.”
Montserrat only played their first game as a country in 1991.
“The national anthem is God Save The Queen,” said Allen.
“It’s surreal before the game when you hear both national anthems, you’re standing there thinking ‘this is an international match’, it’s good, it’s a proud moment for me.
“It’s only a tiny island, I think the population’s only about 5,000, it’s a really small island.
“Us playing there is massive for them, everybody is behind us and we try to do them proud.
“I think cricket’s the main sport there but football is big, everybody follows it.”
Allen played on the wing in a 4-3-3 in the first game, but the team changed to a 4-4-2 against El Salvador.
“We’ve got Lyle Taylor, we’ve got a few players from our league as well, a few from League Two,” he said.
“I think there’s more who are meant to be coming on the next trip who are playing in the Premier League, so hopefully they come. “The squad is getting stronger, it’s the strongest we’ve had for a long time, but we need to find those players coming through, which is going to be the difficult thing.
“But the squad’s strong and hopefully it gets stronger with more younger players coming through. “Closer to home, Allen is pleased with how Halifax have performed this season.
“Obviously we’re doing well as a team and personally, doing well,” he said, “but we can always improve and I can always improve.
“But the main thing is collectively, we’re doing well.
“We can do better but we’ll keep kicking on, hopefully keep picking up three points and we’ll see where we end up.”
When asked about Town’s chances of finishing in the top seven again this season, Allen said: “There’s no reason why not. If we don’t finish in the play-offs it’ll be a disappointing season for us.
“I think the play-offs is the minimum for us, but we’ll take it each game at a time and keep getting points on the board.”
Allen has scored five goals in 22 league games this season for Town having signed a new two-year contract last summer, and is enjoying working under Pete Wild and Chris Millington.
“Definitely, they’re brilliant to work under, and Sarg (Joe Sargison, first team coach),” he said.
“Every day I’m learning new things. You can see against Weymouth and in the last few games I’ve been dropping into the right wing-back role.
“They’re developing a new position for me, which I’ve never done before, which is always good to learn because there’s more chance of me playing, which is what every player wants, more minutes on the pitch.
“We had a chat about it and they said when we need an outlet, I can be that outlet being more attacking, when we’re on the front foot we can get a lot of joy down the sides, like we do with Jeff (King) and on the other side with Danny Williams and Jack Senior.
“It’s a good position if used correctly.”