W Connection win but Central, Police and Caledonia all lose ahead of Friday's Lucozade Sport Goal Shield semi-finals.
Just when the hundreds that turned out at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Tuesday night thought the latest Couva Clásico would end in a goalless stalemate, Hughtun Hector delivered an 89th-minute rocket to snatch a 1-0 W Connection win over rivals Central FC.
The W Connection captain’s goal could also provide the confidence booster for the “Savonetta Boys” who must again meet Central on Friday from 8pm at the same Couva venue in the second semi-final round of the 2016 Lucozade Sport Goal Shield.
Hector, on his Couva Clásico debut, since only returning to the W Connection in the January/February transfer window following a five-year stint in Vietnam top flight V-League, unleashed a right-footed blast from 25 yards out to find the back of the Central net, leaving goalkeeper Akel Clarke and his defence beaten after the “Couva Sharks” failed to properly rid the ball from a corner play.
The win saw Connection (43 points) hurdle Defence Force (42 points) – who were beaten 3-1 by Club Sando in the earlier game of the Couva double-header – to move into second position on the Digicel Pro League 2015/16 standings and close to gap to three points behind defending champions and leaders Central FC (46 points) who have a game in hand with four regular games left.
“Scoring the Clásico winner is a great feeling for me,” said Hector after the final whistle and his first league goal back in Connection strip. “I’m happy to get the goal but this was all about the team. We worked hard in preparation for this game. They (Central) were ahead of us by 6 points with a game in hand and we knew we had to come out and work hard for it. I’m just happy to get the goal. Tonight (Tuesday) was very important to us and we kept our heads in the game and got the result.”
The 31-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international, Hector, who represented Song Lam Nghe An and Hanoi T&T during his stint in the V-League, added, “I’ve witnessed some of the Clásicos [between W Connection and Central] in the past whenever I was home on break from the Vietnam league and the games were big derbies and experiencing it for the first time on the field, I have to say it lived up to expectations.”
The contest was tight with end to end action but offered little clear cut chances between the Couva rivals in the top-of-the-table clash.
Connection left-back Jelani Peters got closest to scoring long before Hector’s item when he rattled the upright in the 22nd minute and much earlier midfielder Andre Toussaint fired just overbar in the second minute of play.
But it was Central who wasted a glorious opportunity in the 4th minute when former US-based forward Rundell Winchester drilled his attempt inches wide of goalkeeper Julani Archibald’s far bottom corner after a giveaway in the middle by Connection.
Archibald who made a couple later stops and a brilliant tip overbar to deny a headed Winchester (R) attempt two minutes inside the second period, was later stretchered off with 20 minutes left. The St. Kitts and Nevis national team goalkeeper suffered a concussion after his head struck the ground in contest for a ball and was rushed to hospital.
There was little work though for his replacement Terrence Lewis, although Central, who managed a 22-yard strike from Central forward Jason Marcano inches wide of the far top corner, threw everything at Connection.
“It was a tight game but in the end we had the edge and deserved to win it,” said W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier. “It was a cagey contest with both teams very cautious. We really wanted to win this game to try and set them back [in the league] and see what will happen in the future.
“Central are a good team and games between us and them are always never easy. They are games that could go either way but tonight I felt we did that little extra to come out on top. We are hoping that on Friday we can improve our performance because although we won tonight (Tuesday), I still think we could have played better.”
W Connection stood the only side of the four Lucozade Sport Goal Shield semi-final teams to win ahead of Friday's knockout games.
Police FC and Morvant Caledonia United, who are to contest each other in the first LSGS semi-final from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday, both suffered league defeats on Tuesday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Caledonia were edged 1-0 by cellar positioned St. Ann's Rangers through a 2nd minute penalty strike from Trevin Latapy which gave Angus Eve-coached side their third league win of the season but remains at the bottom with 14 points.
However, credit to Eve, who took charge of the St. Ann’s club this season, and his charges, it’s an improvement from last season bottom-of-the-table finish with just one win and five points from 24 games.
And in the second game of the Port-of-Spain double-header, San Juan Jabloteh struck a late double to overcome a one-goal deficit to beat Police 3-2 and join Defence Force on 42 points.
Jabloteh held the lead after just 6 minutes thanks to an Akeem Benjamin strike but Police struck twice in the first half with this season’s leading scorer Makesi Lewis notching his 18th league goal in the 19th minute and Dylon King netting in the 33rd minute to give the “Lawmen” a 2-1 lead at the break.
However Brent Sam found the back of the net in the 85th minute to level Jabloteh before Nathan Lewis grabbed the game-winner on 90 minutes—another vital goal from the attacker for his 12th league for the “San Juan Kings” this season.
Down at the Larry Gomes Stadium, North East Stars rebounded from their 4-1 loss to Connection in the LSGS quarter-finals last Friday by whipping Point Fortin Civic 3-0.
Forward Kerry Baptiste scored a first half brace, netting in the 6th and 25th minutes, to take his incredible tally to 9 goals from six games in all competitions since returning to the Stars in the transfer window.
Midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford sealed the comfortable 3-0 win in the 85th minute as coach Ross Russell celebrated his fifth straight league win.
Defence Force however were unable to rebound from Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Morvant Caledonia United in the quarter-final round of the LSGS despite taking the lead against Sando on Tuesday.
Forward Kellon Serrette, one of only four unchanged players from Saturday’s starting line-up for coach Marvin Gordon, gave Defence Force the lead on 24 minutes.
But Sando responded with a goal each from Devon Modeste, Jesse Downing and Akeem Humphrey to secure a 3-1 comeback win.
Modeste equalised on the half hour mark and Downing gave coach Anthony Streete’s men the lead two minutes into the second half before Humphrey completed the scoring in the 72nd minute.
Digicel Pro League 2015/16
Tuesday’s Round Three Match Day Five results
North East Stars 3 (Kerry Baptiste 6', 25', Jean-Luc Rochford 85') vs Point Fortin Civic 0, at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Club Sando 3 (Devon Modeste 30', Jesse Downing 47', Akeem Humphrey 72') vs Defence Force 1 (Kellon Serrette 24'), at the Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection 1 (Hughtun Hector 89') vs Central FC 0, at the Ato Boldon Stadium;
Morvant Caledonia United 0 vs St. Ann's Rangers 1 (Trevin Latapy 2' penalty), at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Police FC 2 (Makesi Lewis 19’, Dylon King 33’) vs San Juan Jabloteh 3 (Akeem Benjamin 6’, Brent Sam 85’, Nathan Lewis 90’), at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Lucozade Sport Goal Shield 2016
Friday April 15, 2016
Ato Boldon Stadium
Police FC vs Morvant Caledonia United—6pm
Central FC vs W Connection—8pm
Digicel Pro League 2015/16
Round Three Match Day Six
Tuesday April 19, 2016
Ato Boldon Stadium
Club Sando vs Police FC—6pm
W Connection vs San Juan Jabloteh—8pm
Hasely Crawford Stadium
Morvant Caledonia United vs Central FC—7pm
Defence Force vs North East Stars—9pm
Wednesday April 20, 2016
Larry Gomes Stadium
St. Ann’s Rangers vs Point Fortin Civic—4pm