N/E Stars take DPL lead

D/Force gets confidence booster but Central and Connection play to 1-1 draw ahead of crucial Toyota Clasico

Wednesday 25 November 2015

North East Stars are the new leaders of the Digicel Pro League 2015-16 championship following events in south and central Trinidad on Tuesday.

In the first instance, North East Stars, previously tied on seven points with defending champions Central FC but second on goal-difference, defeated home-side Point Fortin Civic 2-1 in the lone fixture at the Mahaica Oval.

T&T international Keron Cummings put North East Stars in front in the 35th minute but that advantage was lost when Civic’s Kenwin Stafford levelled the scores in the 62nd minute.

However the visitors snatched all 3 points when wide attacking midfielder Jomoul Francois grabbed the winner in the 75th minute, an item that kept the Sangre Grande club, coached this season by first—time head coach Roland Clarke, unbeaten this term after four league games.

Then, in the second match of a double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Central were held to a late 1-1 draw by Couva-rivals W Connection, who they must also face on Sunday 29 November in Semi-Final Two of the Toyota Classic.

The result in Couva left North East Stars (3-1-0; 10 points) seated at the summit with a two-point lead, while Central (2-2-0; 8 points) dropped into third although tied on points with Defence Force (2-2-0; 8 points), who moved two spots up into second with a higher scoring rate, after a comprehensive 4-1 win over cellar-placed Club Sando (0-1-3; 1 point) in the earlier game.

“The aim was to win and move higher up the table,” said Defence Force defender Curtis Gonzales following the match. “We had the right attitude and got the result.”

Twenty-one-year-old Dominican defensive midfielder Briel Thomas was the hero for W Connection, snatching the equaliser in the 88th minute to salvage a point for W Connection, who remained unbeaten in the league but still winless after four games.

Briel’s glancing header off a left side Alvin Jones , which also beat a last ditched clearance effort on the line by Central’s Leston Paul, proved vital for the Stuart Charles-Fevrier-coached Connection, which only a month ago, edged the Couva Sharks 2-1 in the final of the First Citizens Cup.

Central had dominated the first half but only had a superb Willis Plaza goal to show for it.

Plaza superbly dinked goalkeeper Julani Archibald in the 22nd minute for a 1-0 Central lead after latching onto a perfectly timed Guerra pass inside the area.

It was a return of favour from Guerra who had struck the base of the upright in the 13th minute before Mitchell placed the rebound inches wide, all following brilliant move by Plaza, leaving a handful of Connection players in his path before finding Guerra at the edge of the box.

Plaza, who forced Archibald into a low save in the 15th minute and missed the target by inches in the 24th minute, had the ball in the back of the Connection net again in the 33rd minute from 20 yards out, but referee Rodphin Harris’ whistle was already sounded for a foul against the Couva Sharks.

There were loud shouts for penalty in the 38th minute when Plaza went down in the box after turning between two defenders as Connection escaped again.

Following the break Charles-Fevrier summoned the experience of Gerard Williams at the expense of Triston Hodge at centre-back and later replaced right-back Shannon Gomez with recent T&T national team call-up, teenager, Aikim Andrews and former Central FC forward Dwight Quintero for veteran attacker Andre Toussaint.

While Central FC head coach Ross Russell's main toss was Akeem “Battery” Benjamin into the mix, replacing Marcelle Francoius at the start of the second period, and lanky defender was impressive, adding fresh life to the Sharks back-line.

But from a deflected Quintero effort, Connection won the corner that provided the equalising goal.

Central protested the goal, some calling for a handball and others arguing that the ball didn’t cross the line. But referee Harris stuck to the decision of his first assistant Caleb Wales while Central players Paul and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams were shown the yellow card during their protests.

After the game, W Connection assistant coach Earl Jean admitted, “Central came out and played a very good first half, they nullified us. They know our game is possession and they came out and did a very good job. You must give credit to them on the day for coming out and playing the way they did.

“After coach (Charles-Fevrier) had a chat with the guys (at half time) and made a few substitutions, our guys went back out and tried to play. I think we were just a bit timid today.

“But we must give credit to our boys, they came back and got us a (positive) result. Sometimes you have a poor game and 1-1 is a good result for us.”

Four minutes were allowed for stoppage-time, but even that failed to separate both sides who must face each other again Sunday on the knockout stage.

“It hurts to give up a goal in the 88th minute,” continued the Central FC coach. “It’s difficult for any coach after your players worked really hard for the victory. Kudos to my (Central FC) players because my team deserved to win today.

“We did a good job tonight. We did our homework on the last game we lost to them (Connection). Tonight the guys really stuck to the task. We could have scored more in the first half but muffed a lot of chances and it came back to haunt us in the end.

“Connection are a good team as well and at some time in the game they will get into it. They did for about 20 minutes trying to get a goal, then we took back control. Always when you are playing against a team like Connection, there will always be a spell where you will have to work in keeping them off your back.”

In the earlier match at the Couva venue, Russell’s son, Ross Russell Jr., celebrated a double in Defence Force’s 4-1 win over Sando as they look towards Sunday’s Toyota Classic Semi-Final One showdown with defending champions San Juan Jabloteh from 4 pm in Port of Spain.

Russell Jr., a former Trinidad and Tobago youth player latched onto a perfectly placed Sean Narcis pass over the top before hitting beyond Sando goalie Alexei Julien in the 53rd minute—the ball hitting the far upright before the ball entered the net.

Julien wasn’t as fortunate when a 29th minute strike from 26 yards out by Jelani Felix crashed off his upright and back into play before the rebound was eventually cleared out of danger.

But Sando’s trouble doubled in the 64th minute when Devorn Jorsling made it 2-0, capitalising on an errant clearance into his path at the middle of the area and striking a right-footer into the back of Julien’s net.

Substitute Kerry Joseph, just four minutes onto the field in the 72nd minute, made it 3-0 from close up when he completed an attack pointed by Jorsling.

Three minutes later Sando pulled a goal back when Teba Mc Knight’s header off a Devon Modeste cross defeated the outstretched glove of goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke for a 3-1 score.

But Russell Jr. restored his side’s three-goal advantage and completed his double for the 4-1 Defence Force win by the 88th minute.

It was a contrasting performance to last weekend’s slim 2-1 win over Super League side FC Santa Rosa in the quarter-final round of the Toyota Classic.

“It’s a great boost for us (ahead of the Toyota semi-finals) because our (previous) performance (against Santa Rosa) wasn’t a good one,” said Defence Force head coach Marvin Gordon after Tuesday’s league win. “To come and play like this tonight and scoring this amount of goals is great for the confidence of the team for the game on (semi-final against) Jabloteh.”

Gordon said his players didn’t show their professionalism against Santa Rosa, taking the Super League side for granted “because they are a lesser team.”

“I had a go at my players about it and tonight you would have seen a difference in performance,” added the Defence Force coach. “It was brilliant from me as coach to do what I did after the Santa Rosa game. I needed the players to understand what I expect from them every time they go out onto the field.”

Round One Match Day Four of the Digicel Pro League continues on Thursday with a double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Morvant Caledonia United will tackle St. Ann’s Rangers from 6 pm followed by Police FC against San Juan Jabloteh from 8 pm.

Digicel PPro League 2015-16
Round One Match Day Four
Tuesday’s results
Club Sando 1 (Teba Mc Knight 75’) vs Defence Force 4 (Ross Russll Jr. 53’, 88’, Devorn Jorsling. 64’, Kerry Joseph 72’); at the Ato Boldon Stadium

Point Fortin Civic 1 (Kerwin Stafford 62’) vs North East Stars 2 (Keron Cummings 35’, Jomoul Francois 75’); at Mahaica Oval

Central FC 1 (Willis Plaza 22’) vs W Connection 1 (Briel Thomas 88’); at the Ato Boldon Stadium

Thursday 26 November 2015
Hasely Crawford Stadium
Morvant Caledonia United vs St. Ann’s Rangers—6 pm
Police FC vs San Juan Jabloteh—8 pm

Toyota Classic Semi-Finals
Sun. 29 November
Hasely Crawford Stadium
San Juan Jabloteh vs Defence Force—4 pm
Central FC vs W Connection—6 pm

Teams at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Tuesday
Game One
Club Sando: 5.Devon Drayton, 6.Kemuel Rivers (Yellow Card), 7.Akeem Humphrey, 8.Jeromie Williams (19.Ryan Frederick 73rd minute), 11.Teba Mc Knight (Capt.), 13.Kern Cupid (Yellow Card), 16.Kevon Woodley (21.Kerron Mitchell 83rd minute), 17.Jared London, 22.Corneal Thomas (9.Jessie Downing 58th minute), 24.Devon Modeste, 33.Alexei Julien (GK)

Unused substitutes: 15.Amrit Gildharry, 18.Shane Hospidales, 26.Shaquille Holder, 34.Kelvin Henry (GK)

Coach: Anthony Streete

Defence Force: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 2.Glynn Franklyn, 8.Curtis Gonzales, 17.Ross Russell Jr., 4.Dave Long, 7.Jelani Felix (99.Jerwyn Balthazar 60th minute), 18.Sean Narcis (26.Richard Roy 73rd minute), 9.Devorn Jorsling, 6.Rodell Elcock, 21.Aklie Edwards (Capt.), 12.Jemel Sebro (23.Kerry Joseph 68th minute)

Unused substitutes: 80.Aaron Enill (GK), 16.Kellon Serrette

Coach: Marvin Gordon

Referee: Cecile Hinds

Game Two
Central FC: 4.Andre Ettienne, 11.Darren Mitchell (7.Jason Marcano 79th minute), 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 17.Marcelle Francois (5.Akeem Benjamin 46th minute), 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 24.Kevon Villaroel (8.Sean De Silva 72nd minute), 25.Elijah Manners, 33.Willis Plaza, 45.Ataulla Guerra, 22.Leston Paul (Yellow Card)

Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke, 6.Kerry Baptiste, 26.Mickaeel Jem Gordon, 99.Marcus Joseph

Coach: Ross Russell

W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 2.Kurt Frederick, 4.Maurice Ford, 5.Triston Hodge (3.Gerard Williams 46th minute), 8.Briel Thomas, 9.Shahdon Winchester (Yellow Card), 10.Jomal Williams, 11.Neil Benjamin Jr., 14.Andre Toussaint (19.Dwight Quintero 60th minute), 16.Alvin Jones (Capt.), 21.Shannon Gomez (17.Aikim Andrews 68th minute)

Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), , 12.Dimitri Apai, 13.Kion Joseph, 23.Kevon Goddard

Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier

Match Referee: Rodphin Harris