There will be no early title celebrations for Central FC when the two-time defending champions take on St Ann's Rangers today (Saturday) at the Larry Gomes Stadium in their penultimate match of the truncated 2016-17 Digicel Pro League.
This after W Connection returned to the top of the standings with a narrow 1-0 win over third-placed San Juan Jabloteh courtesy a second half goal by substitute and captain Hughtun Hector at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday night.
Connection, with one game left against Ma Pau Stars, are with 43 points, two points ahead of Central (41 points) who also have a game against San Juan Jabloteh (27 points).
The decisive Connection goal arrived on 56 minutes when Hector, who replaced Grenada international Jamal Charles immediately after the break, guided a half volley out of goalkeeper Javon Sample's reach and into the far netting.
It was a captain's goal in every sense. Hector's side desperately needed to find a way against a very physical Jabloteh side that seemed unwilling to let up.
A superb one-handed save by recent goalkeeper signing, Sample, 18 minutes into the contest kept out a curling Alvin Jones free-kick that was destined for the far top corner—it was Connection's best chance of a tense first half.
However, even with the former Central second choice goalie, Sample, at full stretch, Hector broke the deadlock after connecting to Neil Benjamin's improvised cross—which looped high inside the area—under challenge from defender Akeem Benjamin.
Twelve minutes later the 32-year-old Hector executed a spectacular volley off a right side Jones cross, but a magnificent Sample was equal to the test, not once, but twice after also denying the midfielder on the quick rebound.
Hector, needless to say, had done enough when his side most needed with his seventh league goal this season.
Earlier at the Couva venue, Akeem Roach continued his rich form by scored twice to help Club Sando hold off bottom-placed Point Fortin Civic 3-2 in a feisty affair.
Roach stretched his lead at the top of this season's league scorers' list—three goals ahead of the pack—with 14 goals while his side improved their fifth position with 24 points, one less than fourth-positioned Ma Pau who face Morvant Caledonia United on Sunday from 3:30pm at the Larry Gomes Stadium.
Roach, a 20-year-old recent Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Senior Team call-up, snatched the winner just over the hour mark after the scores were tied at two-all at the break.
Kevon Piper opened the scoring in the 23rd-minute, hitting off the underside of the bar to beat Civic goalkeeper Miles Goodman and give Sando a 1-0 lead after a left side Akeem Humphrey cross strolled freely across the six-yard area.
Then two minutes later, with new T&T national team coach Dennis Lawrence looking on from the stands, Roach unleashed a rocket from 25-yards out that Goodman was no match for to put Sando 2-0 ahead.
Civic, however, pulled a goal back by the 33rd minute when Akeem Redhead's fierce angled strike deflected off defender Nicholas Thomas and into the back of goalkeeper Kelvin Henry's net.
Teenagers Nion Lammy and Darnell Hospidales then combined to level Civic 2-2 at the stroke of half-time with the latter guiding squared pass onto the underside of the bar before it sunk into the back of the Sando goal.
Sando had paid miserably for a couple missed chances in the first half which included Roach anxiously hitting over bar on the half-hour mark.
Roach also put another effort over on the hour mark off substitute Shaquille Holder's hard worked cross.
But the Sando hitman redeemed himself in the 65th-minute by finding the 3-2 winner with a clinical finish into the bottom corner of Goodman's net after controlling a Nical Stephens cross off his chest.
Roach, who is followed by Defence Force's Devorn Jorsling, Ma Pau Stars' Jerrel Britto and Connection's Dimitrie Apai (9 goals) on the scorers’ list, played provider in the final minute of regulation time by putting substitute Holder through against Goodman, but the winger struck wide on the rebound after his tame initial attempt was kept out at the goalmouth.
Jorsling, a multiple-time former Golden Boot winner, and his sixth-positioned Defence Force (20 points) side will travel to Mannie Ramjohn Stadium today (Saturday) against Police FC in a clash of the armed forces from 3:30pm.
Defence Force, like the five teams above them, have already secured places in the main draw (quarter-final round) of this season’s season-ending Digicel Pro Bowl knockout tournament.
Meanwhile, in descending order, Police (16 points), Rangers (16 points), Morvant Caledonia (11 points) and Civic (6 points), must contest the Digicel Pro Bowl qualifier round on Tuesday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training ground due to their unavoidably bottom-four finish after Round Two Match Day Eight in the Pro League.
Club Sando 3 (Kevon Piper 23’, Akeem Roach 25’, 65’) vs Point Fortin Civic 2 (Nickcolson Thomas 33’ Own Goal, Darnell Hospedales 45’), at Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection 1 (Hughtun Hector 56’) vs San Juan Jabloteh 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium.
Club Sando: 34.Kelvin Henry (GK), (GK), 5.Nical Stephens, 6.Kemuel Rivers, 7.Akeem Humphrey (Capt.) (10.Shaquille Holder 59th minute), 8.Kevon Piper (19.Joel Leslie Russell 46th minute), 9.Keron Cornwall, 13.Akeem Roach, 17.Jared London (12.Michael Basdeo 82nd minute), 18.Trevin Latapy, 23.Nickcolson Thomas, 27.Jayson Joseph.
Unused substitutes: 33.Alexei Julien, 11.Joel Kevin Lewis, 14.Andy London, 15.Judah St. Louis.
Coach: Angus Eve
Point Fortin Civic: 22.Miles Goodman (GK), 3.Kurfri Pierre (Yellow Card), 6.Shane Garraway, 8.Akeem Redhead (99.Tereek Joseph 87th minute), 11.Shaquille Dublin, 13.Shevon Abraham (Yellow Card), 27.Darnell Hospedales (39.Juaval Roberts 87th minute), 28.Nion Lammy, 35.Reigh Alexander, 36.Chad Mark (26.Jeremiah Kesar 79th minute), 38.Jamal John.
Unused substitutes: 40.Tevin Moore (GK), 4.Keron Neptune.
Coach: Dick Furlonge
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams (Capt.), 4.Maurice Ford, 8.Briel Thomas (Yellow Card), 10.Dimitrie Apai, 11.Neil Benjamin Jr. (35.Jesus Perez 67th minute), 14.Andre Toussaint (Yellow Card) (43.Malik St. Prix 63rd minute), 16.Alvin Jones (Yellow Card), 20.Jamal Charles (13.Hughtun Hector 46th minute), 23.Kevon Goddard.
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 21.Ronell Paul, 26.Shaquille Bertrand, 30.Shaquille John.
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
San Juan Jabloteh: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 5.Elijah Manners, 6.Akeem Benjamin, 7.Jamal Gay, 8.Keyon Edwards (13.Kadeem Corbin 64th minute), 11.Damian Williams (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 12.Kion Joseph, 15.Jerome Mc Intyre (24.Adrian Reid 87th minute), 18.Jevon Morris (Yellow Card), 23.Kennedy Hinkson (19.Aaquil Campbell 85th minute), 27.Nathan Lewis.
Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK), 2.Tekay Hoyce, 20.Jabari Mayers, 21.Aquil Selby.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
Referee: Rodphin Harris