English-born midfielder Christopher Birchall and Carlos Edward both had outstanding performances as T&T warmed up for its June 4 Concacaf World Cup Qualifier against Panama with a 4-0 shut-out of Bermuda at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Wednesday night.
In a match which was completely dominated by the Leo Beenhakker-coached line-up, Birchall, Edwards and to a lesser extent, Kenwyne Jones, Aurtis Whitley and defensive duo Dennis Lawrence and Anton Pierre all staked claims for a spot on Beenhakker’s 18-man roster for the qualifier against the Panamanians.
However, the same cannot be said of Coventry City striker, Stern John, who apart from his 65th minute goal, had a nightmarish performance in front of the Bermudans goal.
John’s dilemma began as early as the 13th minute when he failed to connect with a pin-point low right sided cross by Edwards six yards out from goal, after the latter had worked a clever one-two with Birchall down the right flank.
One minute later, the improving Leslie Fitzpatrick collected a short corner from Birchall, and with acres of space in front of him, he unleashed a powerful volley at goal which Bermuda’s goalkeeper Nigel Burgess went full stretch to his left to pluck out of the air.
Edwards again picked out John with a right sided centre after robbing a defender of the ball, in the 24th minute but with ‘keeper Burgess and the goal at his mercy, John somehow managed to clip the ball over the bar.
Six minutes later, John blasted over bar from a Jones feed inside the 18-yard box.
With all the chances falling to John, the question was whether T&T would break the deadlock before the half, which they eventually got through an own goal.
The go-ahead item came in the 33rd minute when defender Kentoine Jennings turned the ball into his own net past Burgess, when he attempted to cut out another centre, which was intended for John.
At the other end of the field, T&T goalkeeper and team captain Clayton Ince was almost a spectator for the night and was mostly called into action by his own defenders.
Two minutes into the second-half, Jones scored his first goal for the T&T senior team and the second of the match, when he ran onto a through ball from Edwards, ten yards into the Bermuda half, held off a weak challenge from defender Stevie Astwood and slotted the ball past Burgess on his near post.
John came close to ending his drought in the 50th minute, but his goalward chip was cleared off the line.
Despite his own poor form, the Coventry striker had a hand in his team’s third goal as he headed down a right sided corner from Birchall to the feet of Dennis Lawrence, which left the lanky defender with the easy task of dragging the ball over the line.
After squandering an open chance in the 58th minute when he just had to pick his spot with keeper Burgess stranded, John ended his drought with a 65th minute item.
He ran onto a through ball from Birchall and chipped the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the goal past the advancing Burgess to the delight of the 3,000 spectators on hand.
Edwards, John, Birchall and second-half substitutes Brent Rahim and Gary Glasgow all had chances to add to their team’s tally, but failed to beat substitute goalkeeper Daniel Johnson.
Both teams will meet again tonight at 6 pm in the first match of double-header at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.
In the feature match from 8.15 pm defending champions of the T&T Professional Football League Pro Bowl, Vibe CT 105 W Connection will put its title on the line against CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh.
Clayton Ince, Anton Pierre, Christopher Birchall, Carlos Edwards, David Atiba Charles, Aurtis Whitley (Brent Rahim 79th), Kenwyne Jones (Gary Glasgow 61st), Stern John, Dennis Lawrence, Leslie Fitzpatrick (Densil Theobald 45th), Marlon Rojas (Glenton Wolfe 45th).
Subs not used: Brent Sancho, Ian Cox, Daurance Williams.
Nigel Burgess (Daniel Johnson 77th), Khris Frick, Maurice Lowe, Kofi Dill, Damon Ming, Jelani Scott (Seion Darrell 79th), Jahnai Raynor (Logan Alexander 56th), Aljame Zuill, Stevie Astwood, Kentoine Jennings, Domico Coddington.
Subs not used: Cecoy Robinson, Rohaan Simons, Kyle Lightbourne