Digicel Pro Bowl

Category: Digicel Pro Bowl

N/E Stars seek silver lining in Digicel Pro Bowl

​​​Photo: North East Stars midfielder Kerry Daniel, left, vie for the ball with Central FC midfielder and captain Leston Paul during their Digicel Pro League clash at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on May 8, 2016. Central won the game 4-0.
Issued on Thursday May 12, 2016

“The plan is to win the third round (Kevon Carter trophy) of the (Digicel) Pro League and win the (Digicel) Pro Bowl, and it won’t be too bad of a season for us.”

That’s the view of North East Stars forward Kerry Baptiste as the 2015/16 Pro League season nears the finale with the Digicel Pro Bowl and final Digicel Pro League (DPL) games this month.

North East Stars will meet four-time Pro Bowl champions W Connection in the 2016 semi-finals from 6pm on Friday May 13 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium while Defence Force and San Juan Jabloteh will tackle each other in semi-final two from 8pm.

But last Sunday the Stars’ bid for a CONCACAF Champions League qualifier zone—top-two—finish in the DPL came to a crashing end last Sunday when they fell to a 4-0 league loss against eventual champions Central FC, who secured their second consecutive league crown with the win.

However on Tuesday night Ross Russell’s men pulled off the sweet feeling of revenge by ousting title holders, Central, 2-1 in the quarter-final round of the Pro Bowl – the final tournament on the Pro League calendar which carries with it TT$100,000 to the champions.

Baptiste, who congratulated his former employers, Central, for their Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship and Pro League achievements this season, said, “It’s always good to beat a champion team. We came out and corrected certain mistakes we made on Sunday.”

Baptiste, who made his return to North East Stars in the January/February transfer window from Central, netted the game-winner from the penalty spot to send the “Sangre Grande Stars” into Friday’s semi-finals against W Connection, who escaped Police FC 4-3 in their quarter-final clash.

“W Connection are one of the better teams in the Caribbean but football but it’s all about what happens on the day,” said Baptiste. “It’s now for us to execute the coach’s plan and try to get the desired result. We expect it to be a good game but a tough one.”
Photo: North East Stars player Anthony Wolfe during the launch and quarter-final round draw of the 2016 Digicel Pro Bowl at the VIP Lounge of the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on May.
But the Stars aren’t the only ones ambitious of capturing the 2016 Digicel Pro Bowl with W Connection, champions in 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2014, Defence Force, champions in 2012, and San Juan Jabloteh, champions in 2005 and 2006, all hoping to go all the way to put their hands on the title again.

Connection assistant coach Earl Jean said the “Savonetta Boys” wants to end the season on a hat-trick by adding the Digicel Pro Bowl title to their First Citizens Cup and Toyota Classic trophies this season.

“The starting and the ending is what people remember,” said the former St. Lucia and Connection forward. “How you finish in the end is what people remember of you unless you are the league champions. This is the time that players have to show up; we get to see what people are made of and contracts get renewed. We have been going the longest all season reaching four finals including contesting the Charity Shield but we have to be tougher mentally now because the work continues. It’s a mind-set that we have tried to cultivate over the years.”

Jean said following the disappointment in losing the CFU Club Championship final against domestic rivals Central in Haiti earlier this month, Friday’s quarter-final win was a much needed confidence booster for his side.

Jean continued, “I am disappointed in our team play. We are forced to rotate players because of injuries in the squad and haven’t got the rhythm but sometimes it’s good to get confidence in a win. It was a tough game (against Police) who put up a good fight, but now we have to lick our wounds and come out for the next game (against North East Stars).”

Defence Force and Jabloteh are also fancying their chances for a spot in the final on May 27 after coming off tough quarter-final round challenges.

The Army/Coast Guard combination ousted recent Lucozade Sport Goal Shield champions, Morvant Caledonia United, 2-0 in their quarter-final meet last Friday after Jabloteh needed a penalty shootout to overcome St. Ann’s Rangers 4-3 after pulling off a late 1-1 draw against the minnows.

“The Digicel Pro Bowl is a tournament we would really like to win again,” said Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon. “Our players all understand it’s their last chance for silverware [this season]. We lost the Toyota Classic final earlier this season and would like to do better in this tournament. We are on a three-game winning streak in all competitions but had to work really hard to beat Caledonia and it won’t be different against Jabloteh.”

Gordon added, “Hopefully we finish second in the league and win the Pro Bowl and the season will turn out fine for us.

“We haven’t been to CFU since 2014,” added the Defence Force coach. “The main goal this season was to win the league or finish in the top two so we can go on to the CFU Club Championship and hopefully qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. It’s now a tight race for the top-two finish but our guys have refocused and have been brilliant in their attitude, so we are keeping hope.”

Two-time Caribbean champions Central, who wrapped the league defence last Sunday by putting their tally to an unassailable 55 points with two games to spare after the win against North East Stars, have secured their third consecutive berth at the CFU Club Championship – the qualifier tournament to the CONCACAF Champions League – by securing one of the two league spots which qualifies teams to the Caribbean tournament.

Former Caribbean champions, Jabloteh stands with the best chance of securing the final CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers spot with two games left (against Central FC and North East Stars) to play and tied on 48 points with Defence Force, who have one remaining league game (against Caledonia).

Multiple-time former Caribbean champions W Connection are on 43 points with two remaining league games (against Club Sando and St. Ann’s Rangers) but the “Savonetta Boys” must win their remaining games while Defence Force and Jabloteh must lose their remaining games if they are to miraculously creep into a second position DPL finish.

“Anything is possible in football, so you never give up,” said Connection assistant coach Jean. “We are still mindful that the chance is still there. We want to return to CFU and we will battle till the season is done.”

But Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey has warned that “qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers is most important for the club’s management”.

Jeffrey added, “It is more important than winning the Pro Bowl and we also want to win the Pro Bowl. The Caribbean knows Jabloteh as a powerhouse and we believe it’s time we return to CFU.

“We have four games [in all competitions] and we are looking towards four wins; winning all four and finishing off the season on a high. Player for player we have the best team in the league. Our biggest problem has been shooting ourselves in the leg by not finishing off teams by the amount of chances we get. It’s just for our players to execute and we will be victorious.”

Meanwhile fourth-positioned North East Stars are with 44 points on the regular league standings with one game left and can finish no higher than their current position.

But the “Sangre Grande Stars”, who had their seven-game league winning run snapped on Sunday, are still leading with 21 points for the Kevon Carter trophy which goes to the team with the highest points tally in Round Three of the DPL.

A win for Baptiste and company against another former club of his, Jabloteh, who are second in the Kevon Carter trophy race with 19 points, will secure the trophy ahead of the “San Juan Kings” and Central FC (15 points) who have remaining games against Rangers and Jabloteh.

Baptiste credited the Stars recent form, which includes eight wins from the last 10 games in all competitions, to the “collective effort and mind-set to do well as a team” by the North East Stars players. Baptiste, who scored 13 goals in those 10 games since his return to the Sangre Grande club, said his goal-scoring feat was only part of team performances.

“I always knew what I can do in front of goal,” said the former TT Pro League player of the Year. “But my return to North East Stars has been about trying to pass my knowledge to the younger guys and it has been a real joy to my heart that the players are taking heed. It has been easy for me with the collective effort of the coaching staff and senior players to inspire and motivate the team.”

Remaining 2015/16 fixtures
Digicel Pro Bowl
Semi Final Round

Friday May 13, 2016
Hasely Crawford Stadium

W Connection vs North East Stars—6pm
Defence Force vs San Juan Jabloteh—8pm

Digicel Pro League 2015/16
Rescheduled Round Three Match Day Seven fixtures
Tuesday May 17, 2016

(Date, venues and kick-off times to be decided)
San Juan Jabloteh vs Central FC
W Connection vs St. Ann’s Rangers 

Digicel Pro League 2015/16
Round Three Match Day Nine
May 20-21
Ato Boldon Stadium

Central FC vs St. Ann’s Rangers—6pm
Club Sando vs W Connection—8pm

Hasely Crawford Stadium
Police FC vs Point Fortin Civic—7pm
Defence Force vs Morvant Caledonia United—9pm

Barataria Recreation Ground
San Juan Jabloteh vs North East Stars—6pm

Digicel Pro Bowl Final
Friday May 27