Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior Men’s Team completed a 1-0 victory over Group 5 hosts St Kitts/Nevis at Warner Park on Friday night to book their passage to the semi-final round of the Caribbean Cup in T&T next month.
A 50th minute goal by Defence Force winger Kevon Carter separated the two teams and pushed T&T to six points from their two games in the series so far.
T&T, with head coach Hutson Charles suspended for the game after being ejected in the 4-1 win over French Guiana, were stretched defensively right until the final minute as St Kitts pressed for the equalizing goal and enjoyed better possession for large portions of the second half.
T&T controlled proceedings in the first half and should have managed at least two goals before the break. Densill Theobald marshaled T&T’s play from the midfield but had to go off just before the break due to an ankle sprain. His replacement, Carter, shot home low from close range on an assist by Clyde Leon after he was put through by Jamal Gay
French Guiana defeated Anguilla 4-1 in the earlier encounter. T&T will aim for a third win on Sunday against Anguilla but even failing to do so, they are already guaranteed a semi-final spot as Group 4 runners up Barbados are on six points with a plus one goal difference while T&T currently holds a plus four goal difference.
Leon came into the starting team at the expense of Carter with T&T strengthening their midfield leaving Gay alone up top.
That approach might have indicated that the T&T coaching staff opted to start cautiously against the hosts which had English-based midfielder Romaine Sawyers and Vancouver Whitcaps forward Atiba Harris in their line up.
St Kitts had proven to be difficult opponents at home to T&T. In the 2006 World Cup qualifiers they went ahead before a late Stern John winner gave the Bertille St Clair coached team three points. In 2009, T&T rallied to a 3-2 win by way of a Kerry Baptiste winner while T&T lost 2-1 in 2002 and 4-1 in another friendly in 1998.
On Friday night though, it was mostly T&T in the opening forty-five as the hosts appeared extra wary of the eight-time Caribbean champs.
A hole in the net forced a delayed start by five minutes with both teams already on the pitch. Still, T&T settled quickly and took the game to their opponents.
Joevin Jones tried to play one over the advancing Julani Archibald who got a faint touch to prevent an early goal. At the other end Williams also did well to push away shot from 20 yards out by Zephaniah Thomas after punching away the initial right side delivery.
On nine minutes, defender Robert Primus, lurking near the penalty box saw the ball fall perfectly for him but he could only direct his effort over bar.
Seven minutes later T&T scrambled safety after a dangerous ball played back in bounced off the crossbar with Harris pressuring.
Before the break, Leon and Theobald combined and the W Connection midfielder pushed forward before sending his shot along the ground to which Archibald dealt with.
T&T’s best chance of the opening half fell for Jones. A good build up on the right led to the youngster with only the ‘keeper to beat but his shot was blocked by the alert custodian.
Theobald’s absence due to an ankle sprain put some strain on T&T in the second half as the team look less organized and at times too eager to simply get the ball away once St Kitts found themselves around the T&T penalty box.
Williams was forced to make a good save low down to deny Harris in the 49th and after a Carlyle Mitchell error, Vaneer Harris saw his effort go wide.
Then Carter made sure from close range after a nice piece of work by Leon who slipped in behind two defenders after meeting Gay’s pass.
The closing twenty minutes was played under a brisk shower as St Kitts pressed a T&T team that was found playing too deep.
T&T needed another goal and should have had it when Daniel was sent through by Carter but with loads of room and time, the Philadelphia Union hurried his effort and put it high and wide Williams came up big with another fine save as T&T rallied out for the three points and a place in the next round scheduled to play in T&T from November 14th.
That group also includes Cuba, Suriname and the Group 2 runner up which starts October 21 and comprises hosts St Lucia, Curacao, St Vincent/Grenadines and Guyana.
After the win, Assistant coach Derek King said he was simply satisfied with the team being able to grind out the result.
“It was not the most impressive win but the guys deserve full marks for effort and fight,” King told TTFF Media.
“We always knew St Kitts would make it difficult but it saying that I thought we played too deep at times and we allowed them to believe they had a chance to get back in the game. We had some chances that in games like these you need to put away in order to ease the pressure and finish off teams.”
Skipper Williams added “The game turned out difficult but you could see the attitude of the guys in that they wanted to win it and they push themselves to the limit. That’s a good sign for any team that is rebuilding. These kind of games helps to build character within a team and I was happy about that.
This game was one to decide the group winners and both teams wanted it on the night. Thankfully we put in the effort and got through in the end. Now it’s about finishing on a high on Sunday and going back home to prepare and continue our run in the competition.” Williams added.
T&T: - Jan-Michael Williams (capt), Carlyle Mitchell, Robert Primus, Seon Power (Yellow 78), Joevin Jones, Daniel Cyrus, Hughtun Hector, Keon Daniel (Curtis Gonzales 82nd), Clyde Leon, Densill Theobald (Kevon Carter 43rd) (Willis Plaza 84th), Jamal Gay.
Coach: - Hudson Charles (T&T).
St Kitts/Nevis: - Julani Archibald, Patrece Liburd, Gerard Williams, Tesfa Robinson, Vaneer Harris, Thrizen Leader, Romaine Sawyers, Devaughn Elliott (Orlando Mitchum 61st), Atiba Harris (Yellow 24), Zephaniah Thomas (Errol O'Loughlin 75th), Ian Lake (Aaron Moses-Garvey 79th).
Coach: - Jeffrey Hazel (St Kitts).
Video: - Click here to see Carter’s goal
Attendance: - 1700.
Referee: - David Rubalcaba (Cuba).
P W T L GF GA GD Pts
Trinidad & Tobago 2 2 0 0 5 1 +4 6
St Kitts & Nevis 2 1 0 1 2 1 +1 3
French Guiana 2 1 0 1 5 5 +0 3
Anguilla 2 0 0 2 1 6 -5 0