Veteran former International, Gary Glasgow announced his comeback to the Pro League with a 16th minute goal against San Juan Jabloteh, after being out with injury for the best part of the season.
After a poor run of form, North East Stars, reeling from the surprise departures of CEO Brent Sancho, Kevin Jeffrey and Roland Clarke, bounced back in traditional football style with a strong and gutsy performance over the in-form Jabloteh to beat them 2-0.
Surprisingly, Jabloteh started with Jabloteh's top scorer, Willis Plaza, on the bench, but it was clear that Brazilian coach, Emerson Alcantara, had targeted Marvin Oliver as San Juans major threat. The Jabloteh legend was man marked by U-23 defensive midfielder, Jeromie "Butters" Williams who gave a superb performance of man marking, keeping Oliver at bay for most of the game.
North East were clearly fired up from the start, with much more passion and hunger than has been witnessed in the last few games. In the 16th minute, Mark "Passion" Leslie, replacing Seon Power at right back due to injury, stormed down the right wing and played a perfect low cross which Glasgow met on the far post to steer into the net.
Less than 5 minutes later, another National U-23 midfielder, Jean-Luc Rochford made it 2-0 with a stunning shot from 20 yards, taking him to 3 goals for the season.
The first half belonged completely to North East Stars, with an aggressive midfield preventing playmaker Oliver from having any impact on the game. North East collected several yellow cards, at least two for hard tackles on Oliver.
The second half began with Plaza on the field, and the 45 minutes of football that followed took place mainly in the Stars half. With San Juan having more time to pass the ball around, they had many chances, but the staunch defending of North East, and Lady Luck clearly favouring the Sangre Grande outfit, the Jabloteh strikers were denied again and again.
Williams was dismissed half way through the second half for a second yellow card, but he and North East readily accepted this. Clearly, Williams robust tackling had the desired effect and his aggression was certain to earn him marching orders from the ref. However, this looked to be acceptable collateral damage, as the 19 year old Daryl Trim from St Anthony's, who had only appeared at half time to replace the injured Anthony Wolfe, was sacrificed for a defensive midfielder.
Jabloteh were pelting more shots at U-23 keeper, Marchan, than limers at a Ravi B concert, but they could have played for another 45 minutes and not score, such was their luck.
Meanwhile, North East had adopted a counter attacking style, with another U-23, Kaydion "Drogba" Gabriel, out on the right initially, moving to centre forward. Drogba's lightening speed saw him in a sprint from the halfway line in a one on one contest with a San Juan defender. Gabriel won that race by half a yard and a great right foot shot from the edge of the box struck the Jabloteh upright.
Gabriel really needs a goal to improve his confidence, and he saw two other good chances miss the target. If the first had hit the net, no doubt he would have scored a hat trick, but his performance showed there is a lot to look forward to.
At the whistle, Jabloteh could only blame themselves for not taking the chances they created, and their second half performance should give them confidence to push for the title. North East at last found the grit, unity and determination that has been sadly lacking this season, but they should be confident, based on their first half performance and their second half tenacity, of taking at least a cup back to Grande.
In the first game, a fabulous first half performance by St Anns Rangers saw them return to the dressing room with a 3-0 lead after a Hector Sam double (3 & 42) sandwiched a tasty Devon Modeste (16) filling.
Bizarrely, both teams had to wait nearly 5 minutes for the St Anns keeper to take the field, and then only after the referee sent a Rangers player to fetch him. This tardiness cost him a yellow card. However, it appeared that he was injured, as he was later substituted.
Rangers pushed their lead to 5-0, with Keron Alexander (56) and a second item from Modeste (75), which was surprising since Police, who put 4 past T&TEC and also beat W Connection, have looked the best side they have mustered for a few years. However, whether St Anns relaxed, or Police flicked on their twos and blues, the boys from St James reacted to their emergency crisis by scoring two late goals, Errol Charles netting in 78 minutes and Kareem Young in the 86th.