Last season’s Pro League bottom feeders Point Fortin Civic and Morvant Caledonia United were not in beatable mood last night, holding multiple-time former champions Defence Force and three-time Pro League holders Central FC goalless, respectively.
In fact, Civic and Morvant Caledonia – two sides given fresh life this season under returning coaches Reynold Carrington and Jamaal Shabazz respectively – could have walked away winners at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Civic had a clear penalty waved off by referee Cecile Hinds, who allowed play to continue after forward Keron Neptune was dragged to ground inside the box by Defence Force defender Glynn Franklyn five minutes into the second half.
It was the second penalty shout from the rejuvenated Neptune on the night, but the latter of his cries, in the opinion of many, should have easily warrant the official to point to the spot and show Franklyn—Defence Force’s last defender—a direct red card.
Civic, stepping one spot off the bottom of the standings where they finished last season but still in search of a first win this term, also had themselves too to blame despite coming away with a second consecutive draw after five games.
Neptune, who flashed an attempted inches overbar three minutes into the second half, was put through by former W Connection midfielder Jabari Mitchell on 55 minutes, but the veteran forward’s tame shot made for a comfortable wrap by Defence Force goalkeeper Andre Marchan.
Neptune then unselfishly rolled a pass to an oncoming Akinola Gregory, however his teenaged strike partner lifted an attempt overbar from the edge of the area.
Similarly, Civic were the more enterprising of the two sides in the first half, although a rocket header from Defence Force right-back Jerome Mc Intyre came closest to breaking the deadlock two minutes from the break, when it skidded off the bar.
Substitute Shaquille Bertrand, another pre-season acquisition by Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon, had a shot blocked away by Civic goalie Marvin Phillip ten minutes from time.
But on the opposite end, from virtually the final kick of the game, Trinidad and Tobago Under-17 midfielder Judah Garcia curled an attempt onto the bar.
Had it entered the far top corner of Marchan’s net, it would have been a fitting reward for Civic and the 16-year-old standout Garcia, who had played their hearts out.
“We just need to believe,” said Carrington after the 0-0 draw. “Some of the players (are) still doubting themselves. [But a] victory will [give us the belief]. We will not stop until we reach the level that we need to, to compete with every team.
“I must (also) say the guys worked hard tonight and (a) victory should have been in our favour. But we go away with a point; and we are still grateful for the point.”
Carrington, a former T&T national midfielder and captain, felt his side had created enough chances to win but also believes the officiating “could have been a little [more] consistent.”
Judah Garcia meanwhile, who debuted off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Club Sando on June 30, said, “The feeling is great coming (into) a senior team and starting, and giving a (strong) effort.”
The Shiva Boys Hindu College captain promoted from the Civic youth system, added, “[We are] a team in development, with a lot of young players (who) the coach is trying to gel [together]. So I’d say by the next two years, Point Fortin Civic can dominate the TT Pro League.”
Judah is youngest of four talented Garcia siblings: 19-year-old Trinidad and Tobago and Dutch top flight club AZ Alkmaar winger, Levi, Central FC midfielder Nathaniel, 24, and eldest of them all, 29-year-old Daniel Garcia, who is a former United Petrotrin and T&TEC standout midfielder.
Daniel was present at the Ato Boldon Stadium and appeared to be offering some coaching tips to Judah as they both looked on as Nathaniel’s Central FC took on Morvant Caledonia in the second game of the night’s double-header.
Nathaniel got close to goal too—his free kick two minutes inside the second half had flashed overbar as Central, champions of 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17, tried desperately to unlock Morvant Caledonia, a side that finished second-from-bottom in the last three seasons.
Tyrik John rattled the Caledonia upright on the stroke of halftime with a swerving attempt that surprised goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel in another rare attempt by the holders.
John had another go on the hour mark for Central, this time racing down the right and into box. But Caledonia defender Anthony Charles was equal to the task and did enough to force wide the forward’s attempt.
Charles also proved he can shoot too, lashing a 30-yard attempt inches wide of goalkeeper Stephon Seepersad’s far upright in the 79th minute.
Morvant Caledonia created two more chances near the end when substitute Kelsey Benjamin faied to make contact with a low cross by another substitute, Shakille Belle, at the goalmouth five minutes from time, then deep into stoppage-time Lester Joseph put final attempt off the night off the upright and out for a goal-kick.
Central must return to the Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday against St. Ann’s Rangers from 6pm, preceding a top-of-the-table clash between W Connection and North East Stars from 8pm.
Civic will also be in action on Friday when they host Police FC from 7pm at the Mahaica Oval.
Defence Force and Morvant Caledonia will next face each other from 4pm at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Saturday, while San Juan Jabloteh must host Club Sando on the same day from 5pm at the Barataria Oval (Recreation Ground).
Defence Force 0 vs Point Fortin Civic 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Morvant Caledonia United 0 vs Central FC 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium.
Defence Force: 1.Andre Marchan (GK), 2.Glynn Franklyn, 3.Jamali Garcia, 5.Jerome Mc Intyre, 8.Christopher Durity (4.Dave Long 61st minute), 10.Hashim Arcia (18.Reon Moore 76th minute), 17.Curtis Gonzales, 19.Thurlani George, 23.Kerry Joseph, 30.Trey Hanley (15.Shaquille Bertrand 63rd minute), 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (Capt.).
Unused substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 16.Kellon Serrette, 22.Jelani John, 45.Dylon King.
Coach: Marvin Gordon
Point Fortin Civic: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK) (Capt.), 6.Glen Sutton, 8.Jamal John (13.Nickcolson Thomas 81st minute), 10.Jabari Mitchell, 11.Keron Neptune, 14.Shavon Frederick (32.Jerren Jackie 46th minute), 18.Trent Lougheed, 23.Kevin Rouse, 24.Akinola Gregory (53.Stephan Campbell 70th minute), 27.Darnell Hospedales, 34.Judah Garcia (Yellow Card).
Unused substitutes: 52.Akini Adams (GK), 16.Kelvin Modeste, 25.Shaquille Dublin, 99.Kevin Moodie.
Coach: Reynold Carrington
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Morvant Caledonia United: 1.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 6.Taje Commissiong, 8.Anthony Charles, 11.Quincy Ballah, 12.Kareem Joseph (Capt.), 15.Otev Lawrence, 17.Kerry Daniel, 18.Maestro Mensah (9.Shakille Belle 52nd minute), 20.Kareem Baptiste, 23.Lester Joseph, 28.Renaldo Francois (29.Kelsey Benjamin 79th minute).
Unused substitutes: 5.Joshua Sylvester, 7.Kelrick Walters, 22.Joshua Alexander, 24.Michael Ten-Pow, 31.DeJourn Charles.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz
Central FC: 1.Stephon Seepersad (GK), 5.Keston George, 6.Carlos Edwards (Capt.), 7.Jason Marcano (Yellow Card), 12.Taryk Sampson, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 17.Jesse Joseph (10.Johan Peltier 56th minute), 18.Tyrik John (11.Jabari Carasquero 87th minute), 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 26.Mickaeel Gem Gordon (29.Ross Powden 90th+2 minute), 40.Sean Bateau.
Unused substitutes: 13.Rhondel Gibson, 24.Jules Lee, 30.Prince Walter, 46.John Charles.
Coach: Dale Saunders
Referee: Rashby McPhie