Defending champions Caledonia AIA and former winners North East Stars will tackle each other on Thursday from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium for a spot in the Final of the FA Trophy.
Thursday’s semi-final winner moves on to face competition newcomer Central FC in the Final on a date and venue still to be determined by the tournament organizers—the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.
Central, now coached by former San Juan Jabloteh coach Englishman Terry Fenwick, defeated T&TEC 1-0 last week in semi-final one to reach a Final in the club’s inaugural season.
The ‘Sharks’ probably had the easiest journey to the Final defeating Secondary Schools Football League’s Shiva Boys College 2-0 in the quarter-final round, and cellar positioned Digicel Pro League club T&TEC in the semis.
Now two-time winners Caledonia (2008 & 2011-12) and 2003 winners North East Stars—two popularly backed community clubs—are both confident of reaching a second Final this season.
Caledonia successfully defended the First Citizens Cup—one of five titles won last year—by defeating Defence Force 2-1 in the Final last October with striker Jamal Gay and teenaged Guyanese winger Trayon Bobb netting a goal each.
And last December the Angus Eve-coached Stars defeated Defence Force 4-2 on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the Final of the Toyota Classic. Stars midfielder Keryn Navarro rescued his side by netting an injury time item leveling the scores 2-2 following a double by Defence Force defender Rodell Elcock which overtook the Sangre Grande club’s opening item by Glenton Wolfe.
“I believe the confidence is on a high knowing that it’s a chance to win another trophy,” said North East Stars captain and goalie Cleon John.
John who won the FA title in 2010-11 with Jabloteh added, “I believe we have a bunch of great players that can get us to the Final. We (North East Stars) have a squad of 30 players and not just 22. During the tournament the coach has rotated a lot of guys and whoever he selects is quite capable of doing well.”
North East Stars and Caledonia have met twice this season, with the Sangre Grande club registering a quite comfortable 3-1 win in Round One of the Digicel Pro League, but suffered a 1-0 defeat in Round Two.
Caledonia, N/E Stars in square off for FA Final spot
“I’m not sure who they(Caledonia) are coming with [against us on Friday],” continued John. “…but whatever players they choose, we are ready.
“I won’t say it would be tough for us, but I could say that they always give us a good fight. The first time we played them this season we won 3-1 and in the second time they won 1-0 because of a mistake at the back.”
The Stars are coming off a 2-1 win over Police last weekend in League action, while Caledonia suffered a 5-1 defeat against leaders Defence Force.
“We are seeing it as a big game,” said experienced Caledonia right-back Kareem Joseph, who is known for his admirable runs down the flank and goal-scoring ability.
“The main goal is reaching a Final,” he added. “And coming off a 5-1 defeat last weekend, we are eager to come out and rebound well.”
Caledonia remains without a total nine (9) players currently on trials.
Densill Theobald, Ataulla Guerra, Nuru Abdallah Muhammad, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Trayon Bobb and Walter Moore are all still in Turkey on a month long combine trial, Cornelius Stewart in Finland, Conrod Smith at NASL club Atlanta Silverbacks in the US, and striker Jamal Gay only left Trinidad on Tuesday to join Belgium top division club KV Mechelen for a three-week trial.
While opponents North East Stars remains without defender Seon Power who is presently in Thailand on trial at Chainat FC.
“I think this is a great opportunity for other players to show that they deserve a starting spot,” explained Joseph. “This game is also an opportunity to show the dept in our squad and for players who weren't starting earlier in the year to show their worth.”
The dependable Caledonia defender concluded by saying, “I’m not over confident and I’m not low in confidence, but I’m confident enough that our players, coaching staff and management can do enough so that we can come away with a good result on Thursday.”