St. Ann’s Rangers impressed with a winning start, for the first time since 2011, by defeating Defence Force 2-0 on Sunday at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar in their opening Digicel Pro League 2016/17 match.
Coincidentally, Rangers are now back with Anthony Streete. He was the last coach to achieve such a feat when the St. Ann’s club edged Caledonia AIA, now known as Morvant Caledonia United, 2-1 at the start of the 2011-12 season but was later sacked with four games left and one spot off the bottom.
This time around, Sedale Mc Lean and new signing Dylon King both scored on opposite sides of the half from dead-ball situations on Sunday to earn Rangers – last season’s cellar-placed finishers – and Streete full three points against last season’s third-place league finishers and Digicel Pro Bowl winners Defence Force.
Mc Lean, wearing the captain’s armband, converted from the penalty spot in the 37th-minute to put Rangers 1-0 ahead after Devon Modeste was brought down inside the area by Marvin Jones.
Mc Lean, after a quick huddle with his teammates, got a little fancy by taking up his starting position at the edge of the box with his back towards Defence Force goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke. Then on the sound of referee Rashby Mc Phie’s whistle, Mc Lean turned and ran towards the spot before hitting down the centre to beat a wrong-sided Clarke.
King, who made his Pro League debut last season with Police FC, made it 2-0 for his new employers with his debut goal arriving on 55 minutes when his free-kick from 25 yards proved too hot for Clarke, who, at full stretch, got glove to the effort but couldn’t stop the midfielder’s strike from entering the goal. Rangers finally getting it right after three failed first half set-pieces including one from King in the 31st-minute which flew just wide of the upright.
King wasn’t the only new Rangers signing to star on the afternoon for the St. Ann’s club. Cleon John, a former San Juan Jabloteh and North East Stars first choice goalkeeper and a former Defence Force employee, was magnificent whenever called upon.
The overlooked Trinidad and Tobago international denied Devorn Jorsling twice in the first half and made a superb stop to keep out a half volley attempt by Army winger Jemel Sebro.
“Cleon brought his experience to the team. He is one of the leaders of the team and that’s why he is stamping his authority,” said Streete. “He is a good goalkeeper. He wants [the] playing time [he wasn’t getting at other teams] and that’s why he came at Rangers.
“But I [also] want to compliment him on his discipline. Since pre-season he start on the first day and never missed a session, and that is real seniority. I love him for his discipline… he motivates the whole team.”
Jorsling, the league’s all-time top scorer and ace Defence Force forward, did find the back of Rangers net but his celebration in the 75th-minute was cut short by the offside call while Sean Narcis’ 7th-minute effort which clipped the crossbar stood the closest to a goal for Army.
“When the attitude is poor and you are not willing to do the right things in a football match, it will always be difficult don’t matter the opponents,” Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon told www.ttproleague.com after the game. “I thought today my players’ attitude were poor, the energy level was poor, and the whole organisation of the team was poor. They never carried out the instructions that were given to them in the dressing room.”
Rangers were denied a third item by goalkeeper Clarke who matched a free-kick-rocket by Shakiyl Phillip with a one-handed save to put it overbar.
Clarke also made a double-save ten minutes from time—first denying substitute Marvin Lee and then the follow-up effort by Modeste, who, like Streete, makes his Rangers’ return from Club Sando.
Two-nil it stood at the end for Rangers. And it could have been a heavier defeat for Army had goalscorer Mc Lean hit the target twice more before the end.
Mc Lean struck wide of the far upright in the 77th-minute after stretching the Defence Force backline but was better in the last real attempt of the game when his effort whisked overbar.
“It was really a bad day at the office for us,” conceded Gordon, who plans to head back to the drawing board before coming back out “fighting again.”
Meanwhile Streete credited his support staff and players for the Rangers victory.
“Our technical staff all did a great job to get the team to this point today,” he said. “I am pleased because our players were on top of things in yesterday’s preparations for this game. And today our players were disciplined.”
Streete, who was forced to rebuild a squad on his return this season with a number of league newcomers, said the plan against Defence Force was to focus on three points in the opening game. And while he wants to focus on the season one game at a time, the Rangers coach added, “We are just trying not to come last this season.”
Rangers have finished bottom of the table in the last three seasons, each time under different coaches including new Club Sando coach Angus Eve, but Streete, who served the St. Ann’s club from 2006 till he was sacked in 2012, stands with the best points tally in a season with 34 points in 2008.
At the end of last season Streete was sacked at Club Sando after finishing the team in seventh position on their Pro League debut, prior to which he steered the club to runners-up then champions within consecutive seasons in the Super League—the second tier of Trinidad and Tobago club football.
Defence Force 0 vs St. Ann’s Rangers 2 (Sedale Mc Lean 37’ penalty, Dylon King 55’) at Larry Gomes Stadium.
Defence Force: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 3.Jamali Garcia, 9.Devorn Jorsling, 10.Hashim Arcia (Yellow Card), 12.Jemel Sebro, 13.Marvin Jones, 17.Curtis Gonzales, 18.Sean Narcis (8.Christopher Durity 67th minute), 20.Levi Serries (16.Kellon Foncette 46th minute), 21.Aklie Edwards (26.Justin Garcia 46th minute), 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (Capt.) (Yellow Card)
Unused substitutes: 1.Andre Marchan (GK), 5.Devin Jordan, 15.Brandon Fountain, 19.Thurlani George
Coach: Marvin Gordon
St. Ann’s Rangers: 1.Cleon John (GK), 5.Devorn Drayton, 8.Jameel Antoine, 11.Kazim Donald (33.Osaze Springer 74th minute), 20.Kareem Baptiste (Yellow Card), 30.Lester Durham (16.Richard Williams 85th minute), 6.Dylon King, 7.Seedale Mc Lean (Yellow Card), 10.Devon Modeste, 28.Shakiyl Phillip, 19.Tafari Williams (32.Marvin Lee 74th minute)
Unused substitutes: 22.Christopher Biggette (GK), 44.Dyllon Lara, 17.Francis Rojas.
Coach: Anthony Streete
Referee: Rashby Mc Phie