Caledonia AIA's quest to challenge leaders Defence Force for the Digicel Pro League Championship, received a boost on Friday night.
In the opening match of a Round Two Match Day Five double header at the Marvin Lee Stadium, second positioned Caledonia AIA rebounded from a goal down to convincingly defeat Police FC 3-1.
And in the second match League leaders Defence Force ended a 7-match winning streak by settling for a meager point against Central FC following a 1-1 draw.
Previously Caledonia was seated in second, 8 points adrift of the Soldiers, but following Friday's fixtures that Morvant-Laventille club (23 points) is now 6 points behind Defence Force (29 points) and has a match in hand.
Diminutive ex-Stokely Vale midfielder Darrel Mitchell scored the earliest goal of both matches, eventually spoiling the Soldiers run of form.
Mitchell, one of three December/January window signings by Central, had the 'Sharks' in front 1-0 by the 6th minute, stimulating a reaction of pride from assistant coach Travis Mulraine who served as caretaker in absence of Terry Fenwick currently in England on personal leave.
However the Soldiers plucked a goal back to level the scores 1-1 three minutes later.
Trinidad and Tobago winger Kevon Carter smashed a shot past national teammate and Central goalie Marvin Phillip from inside the area.
Prior to both goals, Phillip was forced into action on two occasions with stops against Army attacking midfielder Josimar Belgrave.
Belgrave had another go at goal in the 26th minute with a swerving effort from outside the area that Phillip made another shutout, this time with a diving save to his left.
Central's closest attempts to return the advantage was inches too high in the 39th minute from a Marvin Oliver free kick, and in the 63rd minute Weslie John free inside the area wasted a Peter Byers cross.
Defence Force, who defeated Central 3-0 in Round One, had further chances but they too, failed to find the back of the net a second time.
Late substitute Richard Roy, who only returned to the squad this week after a month long combine trial in Turkey, was denied by a diving Phillip save in the 85th minute. And a minute later volleyed over-bar off a Devorn Jorsling cross with the post at his mercy.
Caledonia however, made their chances count against Police.
Tobagonian forward Trevin Caesar, who scored the fifth and final item in Caledonia’s 5-1 win over the Lawmen last November in Round One, pulled Caledonia level 1-1 in the 34th minute with a strike past goalkeeper Keston Mata.
This after Dexter Alleyne handed Police the advantage in the 17th minute.
Alleyne, in the right place at the right time, placed an early strike from the left of the area at goal which took a deflection before it bobbled past Caledonia's Grenada international goalie Shemel Louison.
After Caesar hooked a diagonal pass by Abdallah Phillips into the back of the net, the Lawmen allowed two more goals despite executing one of their most attractive performances.
Phillips tried his luck on the hour mark from distance only winning a corner from the effort. But Akim Armstrong and Kareem Joseph were spot on in the 73rd and 87th minutes respectfully.
Armstrong potted from the back post beating Mata from a left side corner by Miguel Alejandro Romeo for a 2-1 score. And a quick free kick release by substitute Sherron Joseph to his brother Kareem allowed the right-back to round Mata and shoot into goal for a 3-1 finish.
Caledonia AIA 3—1 Police FC
Trevin Caesar 34’ , Akim Armstrong 73’, Kareem Joseph 87’ ; Dexter Alleyne 17’
Caledonia AIA—Shemel Louison, Stephan David (capt.), Aubrey David, Colin Nelson, Trevin Caesar (Nathan Lewis 67th), Abdallah Phillips (Sherron Joseph 81st), Kareem Joseph, Akim Armstrong, Akeem Thomas, Miguel Alejandro Romeo, Sheldon Holder (Keyon Edwards 65th)
Police FC—Keston Mata, Todd Ryan (capt.), Anton Hutchinson, Kareem Perry, Jameel Perry (Aaron Stewart 90th), Dexter Alleyne (Kerry Frederick 82nd), Christon Thomas (Noel Williams 73rd), Elijah Belgrave, Kemrom Purcell, Clevon Mc Phee, Kenaz Williams
Central FC 1—1 Defence Force
Darrel Mitchell 6’ ; Kevon Carter 9’
Central FC—Marvin Phillip (capt.), Keion Goodridge, Marvin Oliver, Peters Byers (Cyrano Glen 90th), Carey Harris, Adrian Noel, Darrel Mitchell, Justin Fojo, Jason Marcano (Sayid Freitas 75th), Weslie John, Johan Peltier (Anthony Wolfe 75th)
Defence Force—Kevin Graham, Corey Rivers (capt.), Curtis Gonzales (Yellow Card), Sean Narcis (Yellow Card) (Richard Roy 69th), Glynn Franklyn, Devin Jordan, Devorn Jorsling, Kevon Carter, Josimar Belgrave (Jerwyn Balthazar 60th), Aklie Edwards, Jemel Sebro (Ross Russell Jr.75th)
Central FC hold Army, lead cut.
By Kern De Freitas (Express).
Digicel Pro League title chasers Caledonia AIA got a helping hand from Central FC, who held leaders Defence Force 1-1 on Friday night at Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya to cut the Army's advantage atop the standings to six points.
The quickly improving Central FC "Sharks" snapped Defence Force's eight-match win streak in the process, while the "Eastern Stallions" of Caledonia took their chances against Police to grab a 3-1 win and inch closer to the 2010-2011 champs.
The latter outing was actually the first match of the doubleheader at the Macoya ground, with Caledonia needing to come from behind to secure victory.
It was not as comfortable as the score would suggest; only an 86th minute item from Kareem Joseph sealed the deal for "Cali", when Police were battling against the tide to try and steal a point.
Dexter Alleyne had put the Lawmen ahead in the 19th minute, before in-form Caledonia striker Trevin Caesar answered in the 34th to leave the teams locked at 1-1. Akim Armstrong put the Morvant/Laventille-based team ahead in the 72nd, and Joseph did the rest.
In the second encounter, both goals came inside of the first ten minutes. Still, there were a lot of fireworks after that, particularly towards the end, with Defence Force looking the more likely to score, but neither team could steal full points.
Both sides gave up easy chances in the opening two minutes, but it was lax Army marking that saw the first break through.
In the sixth minute Central FC's Johan Peltier, playing down the right flank, sent through a well-weighted diagonal long pass for striker Darrell Mitchell, whose ensuing solo run turned the Army defence inside out before he finished boldly to goalkeeper Kevin Graham's left.
But Defence Force would respond quickly. After conceding they roared to life with some neat inter-passing, looking for some space through the Sharks' backline to mount their retaliation.
Their opponents supplied that in the ninth as Kevon Carter, finding way too much space in the centre of the penalty area, ran onto the perfect pass from his fellow winger Jemel Sebro on the right, and rifled his right-footer past T&T custodian Marvin Phillip from point blank range.
Carter was a constant thorn in Central FC's side, particularly in the first half, as he made several runs to beat the off-side trap, some successful, but poor finishing and desperate Sharks' defending kept him out.
Army had the better of the exchanges, though, and should have gone ahead in the 27th after such a Carter run off a pass from Josimar Belgrave put him in line for an open left-footed shot. But searching for his right foot, Carter's hesitance rescued Central FC.
The action stepped up in the second half, but clinical would not describe either team, more interested in referee Neal Brizan's calls each way.
Both Mitchell and Peltier forced close range saves out of Graham, who also stopped Weslie John's cheeky approach. Antiguan veteran striker Peter Byers also had the Army defenders lunging, but his radar was off, as was Marvin Oliver's in the 53rd, as he missed the open near post.
But Army, who had two fair chances in the first part of the second half, charged their opponents late on, to no avail. National strikers Devorn Jorsling and Richard Roy—Roy came on as a second half substitute—both muffed shots close to goal.
In injury time Sayid Freitas, a Central FC substitute, could have put a damper on Army Fete late on, but completely missed his blast from 18 metres.
All in all it was an exciting contest, but one that reminded Defence Force that they can ill-afford to coast to a second title in three years.