Darren Mitchell stood shell-shocked for almost a minute at the penalty spot, and in his background were members of DIRECTV W Connection players and staff celebrating what was their fourth overall FA Trophy title, and third title this season.
The 1999, 2000 and 2002 FA Trophy winners, and six-time finalists (2003, 2008 and 2009), had just defeated rivals Central FC 6-5 on penalties following a 2-2 regulation time draw and 30 minutes of goalless extra-time action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Wednesday night.
Connection were clinical from the spot with team captain Gerard Williams, defender Mekeil Williams, midfielder Celio Da Silva Santos, forward Hashim Arcia, midfielder Joevin Jones and his younger brother, defender Alvin Jones all hitting the back of the net – in that order – against former "Savonnetta Boys" goalie Jan Michael Williams between the uprights for Central.
As for Central, midfielders Jason Marcano and Marvin Oliver, forward Dwight Quintero, and defenders Akeem Benjamin and Jamal Jack all scored, keeping pace with Connection, until the sixth – their first kick of sudden death.
Midfielder Mitchell took a confident stare at goalkeeper Aquelius Sylvester, in goal for Connection, before taking off towards the ball and ultimately firing towards goal. Bang (not quite the actual sound)!
Mitchell's strike crashed onto the crossbar, and he remained motionless in a realm of extreme disappointment and disbelief.
Central, last season’s 2-0 defeated finalists against Caledonia AIA, missed out on the FA Trophy title again, and a second title this season after winning the First Citizens Cup.
And surely, Mitchell would have experienced the kind of heartache effect that makes it difficult to even swallow.
The Tobagonian footballer only regained movement in the limbs with the help of his teammates, who tried consoling him, but never lifted his head while making a disheartened walk off the field and into the tunnel.
Meanwhile there was nothing standing in the way of Connection’s celebrations. Not even the fact that they must wait until January 31, 2014, along with runners-up Central FC, to receive their prize monies of $50,000 and $30,000 for first and second place respectively.
Both clubs were made aware of payout date prior to kickoff via official letters from tournament organisers, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) who handed out promotional cheques during the post match ceremony.
Earlier in the day the TTFA also cancelled the scheduled third place playoff between Malabar FC and North East Stars, in efforts to maintain the integrity of the playing surface for the Final.
Two days before, Central FC coach Terry Fenwick raised the issue because of the – in need of repair – surface’s inability to cope with the recent rainfall and continuous play.
TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips confirmed that his organization consulted the Ato Boldon Stadium officials who advised that although the surface could manage both matches, it would have been “dug up” by the end of the first match. Phillips also suggested that the TTFA may decide to spilt the third place prize money of $20,000 between Malabar and North East Stars.
Longstanding W Connection head coach, Stuart Charles Fevrier, who led the club to its first FA Trophy title in 1999, the year of the club’s professional debut, applauded the successful efforts of his players.
“(Our players) took their penalties very well,” said Fevrier who also guided the David John Williams owned club to the Digicel Charity Shield and Toyota Classic title this season. “(…) very composed, and in the end brought victory to us.
“I was very pleased that our players came out tonight (Wednesday) and gave us our third title for the season thus far.
“It's the first trophy that we ever won. It's a trophy that's very near and dear to us. So we are really happy to win it tonight and we hope to keep it for many years to come.”
Connection were lucky not to concede in the 21st minute of play when Central captain and veteran midfielder Marvin Oliver, free inside the area, headed inches high of the crossbar after meeting a Jason Marcano corner swung in from the right.
Central weren’t as fortunate in the 27th minute when Connection midfielder Jomol Williams, rushing in at the back post, met Alvin Jones’ cross with a well directed header to beat goalkeeper Williams for a 1-0 advantage.
That advantage was short-lived though, when three minutes later on the other end, striker Dwight Quintero smashed in a right footer, which took a wicked deflection off defender Mekeil Williams, wrong-siding goalkeeper Sylvester to level the scores 1-1.
Quintero popped up again in the 56th minute winning his side a penalty, which was converted a minute later by Oliver for a 2-1 Central advantage.
It was from a long ball forward by Johan Peltier – who assisted in Central’s first goal – that was headed up and into the path of Marcano, who looped an early pass behind the Connection defence to set Quintero free. Then referee Neil Brizan had an easy call and pointed to the spot after the 19 year old Quintero was sent to ground inside the area by Christian Viveros.
But the scores were leveled again in the 63rd minute, when eventual match MVP Neil Benjamin Jr. latched onto substitute Hashim Arcia's perfect pass across the area, and executed a neat chip over an advancing goalkeeper Williams for a 2-2 score.
Arcia, who was later denied by Williams in the 83rd minute, was one of three second half changes made by Fevrier, who reverted to his popular three rotating forwards system, after using Mickaeel Jem Gordon as the lone forward in the first half.
Fevrier introduced Arcia and Stefano Rijssel after the break, and Joevin Jones, who only returned to Trinidad on Monday following an unsuccessful trial in Italy with Serie A club Udinese, in the 86th minute.
Seconds onto the pitch, J. Jones muffed a close up opportunity when a Benjamin cross landed into his path, and in the 111th minute of play the versatile Jones volleyed just wide of the upright.
While Central, who finished the last 15 minutes with injured right-back Elton John hobbling around the pitch, had a good break away in the final minute of extra time led by Quintero to Marcano.
But after Keon Trim was played at the top of the area, the substitute struck miserably wide, failing to even force a save out of Sylvester, who had to produce a brilliant save in the 66th minute to deny a diving Marcano header off Rundell Winchester’s cross.
“We were more willing to construct the game than Central,” said Fevrier following the post match trophy and medals distribution.
“Central were more direct and they play that way all the time. We on the other hand … sometimes we may play very direct, but we vary our play much more.
“It's never easy to play against (Central’s) style of play because as a defender the ball is coming at you, and you always have to be battling. It's like a dogfight. But it's their way of play, and you cannot tell (anyone) how to play.
We respect their way of playing and we just have to prepare for it. We always make sure we prepare properly for Central, especially mentally. When you playing Central, what is important is your mental attitude because they are a team that fights all the time.
“We conceded two very soft goals and we scored two brilliant goals on their end (...) and in the end it came down to penalties and I was real pleased with our players.”
Connection, also the Digicel Pro League leaders with 6 wins in as many matches, and Central will return to league action on Saturday in Round One Match Day Eight.
Central will host St. Ann’s Rangers from 5pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium, and from 8pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Connection will visit Caledonia AIA.
But the round of matches kicks off on Friday with a double header at the hasely Crawford Stadium when Police FC hosts North East Stars from 5pm and San Juan Jabloteh against defending champions Defence Force from 7pm.
Kicks from the penalty mark
W Connection 6 Central FC 5
Gerard Williams (scored) Jason Marcano (scored)
Mekeil Williams (scored) Marvin Oliver (scored)
Celio Da Silva Santos (scored) Dwight Quintero (scored)
Hashim Arcia (scored) Akeem Benjamin (scored)
Joevin Jones (scored) Jamal Jack (scored)
Alvin Jones (scored) Darren Mitchell (struck crossbar)
Regulation time score
Central FC 2 – 2 W Connection
Dwight Quintero 30', Marvin Oliver 57' ; Jomol Williams 27', Neil Benjamin Jr. 63'
W Connection– 22.Aquelius Sylvester, 39.Alvin Jones (Yellow Card), 25.Christian Ocoro Viveros (Yellow Card), 15.Mekeil Williams, 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams (captain), 6.Celio Da Silva, 11.Tremain Shayn Paul (26.Stefano Rijssel 46th); 40.Jomal Williams (10.Joevin Jones 86th), 29.Jem Gordon (14.Hashim Arcia 46th), 65.Neil Benjamin Jr.
Unused substitutes– 18.Jelani Archibald (GK), 4.Daneil Cyrus, 7.Silvio Spann, 24.Joao Ananias
Coach– Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Central FC– 21.Jan-Michael Williams, 2.Elton John, 24.Akeem Benjamin, 19.Dwight Pope, 12.Jamal Jack, 10.Marvin Oliver (captain), 18.Kevon Goddard (6.Toric Robinson 67th), 7.Jason Marcano, 13.Johan Peltier (Yellow Card) (Keon Trim 86th), 17.Rundell Winchester (Yellow Card) (Darren Mitchell 91st), 9.Dwight Quintero
Unused substitutes– 25.Javon Sample (GK), 4.Omar Charles, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 23.Hector Sam
Coach– Terry Fenwick