Digicel Pro League leaders Defence Force stretched its unbeaten run to nine successive matches tonight but the “Teteron Boys” did not have it all their own way as they were held 1-1 by Central FC at the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya.
Two goals within the first eight minutes from Central midfielder Darrell Mitchell and Defence Force winger Kevon Carter set up the contest nicely but Peter Byers and Richard Roy failed to deliver the killer blow for Central and Army respectively.
The result allowed second place Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA to trim Defence Force’s lead from eight to six points after a 3-1 win over Police FC in the opening fixture at the same venue, which was chosen after all four Trinidad-based national stadia were declared unavailable by the Sport Ministry for various reasons.
The “Eastern Stallions” have played one game less than the army/coast guard combination and can feasibly bring the difference between first and second to just three points.
The Morvant/Laventille based club is slowly regaining its stride after losing nine first team players in the January transfer window and Police was a more akward opponent than the final scoreline might suggest.
The “Lawmen” started brightly and opened the scoring in the 19th minute as Dexter Alleyne capitalised on hesitant defending to drive home from inside the opposing area, despite a touch from Caledonia custodian Shemel Louision.
And, with the Police midfield pairing of Kenaz Williams and Anton Hutchinson in full flow, Caledonia looked to have a difficult evening ahead.
Gradually, the Stallions clawed their way back in the game though and pulled level in the 34th minute through a close range Trevin Caesar finish after dashing wing play from Abdallah Phillips who tore past Police right back Clevon McPhee before providing the assist.
Police might have restored its lead in the 57th minute but for alert defending by Akim Armstrong who cleared a headed Hutchinson effort off the goal line.
But, by the final 30 minutes, it was all Caledonia. Armstrong showed his effectiveness in the opposing penalty area too as he steered a Miguel Romeo corner past Police goalkeeper Keston Mata at his near post.
And some brotherly love provided the “Eastern Stallions” with an insurance item in the 87th minute as substitute Sherron Joseph played a quick free kick to his elder sibling, Kareem Joseph, who finished calmly to Mata’s right to close the score summary.
There was little love lost between Defence Force and Central as the clubs put on a competitive, upbeat contest in Macoya although neither team could live up to the opening sequence.
The soldiers had the first look at goal as midfielder Josimar Belgrave tested Central captain and custodian Marvin Phillip in the fifth minute. But the Pro League rookies went straight up the other end to score through ex-Phoenix midfielder Darrell Mitchell, who barrelled through the heart of the Army defence before opening his body to place into the far corner.
It was an emphatic way for Mitchell to announce his presence in the top flight and his brave, bustling style and upper body strength was a breath of fresh air for the Central team that is still to take off.
Mitchell was a reminder too, if one was needed, about the talent available in Tobago and within the Super League competition.
Central’s advantage lasted just three minutes though before the Devorn Jorsling-Kevon Carter combination struck again.
Defence Force has not played a game with either Carter or Jorsling getting on the score sheet since December 15 when both were at the Caribbean Cup. Tonight, Carter did the honours as he ran on to a Jorsling pass and hammered the ball high to Phillip’s right.
Byers, an Antiguan international, led all scorers during his stint in this League as a Jabloteh player. But he is still waiting for his first goal since joining Central in January and he got two good opportunities in the second half, only for retreating defender Cory Rivers and goalkeeper Kevin Graham to deny him.
Central defender Weslie John had another effort denied by Graham and Jason Marcano hit the post. While Defence Force substitute, Roy, had the best chance of the night after a precise Jorsling cross but, with six minutes remaining, he blasted his volley towards the heavens.
The Central team, which was run by Travis Mulraine in the absence of head coach Terry Fenwick, held on to a deserved point in the end.
Caledonia might have been grateful for small mercies as a minor blip from Defence Force offered fresh impetus for its chase after a maiden Pro League title.
Central FC (4-1-4-1): 1.Marvin Phillip; 16.Carey Harris, 33.Weslie John, 3.Keion Goodridge, 19.Adrian Noel; 25.Justin Fojo; 32.Jason Marcano (15.Sayid Freitas 82), 21.Darrell Mitchell, 10.Marvin Oliver, 37.Johan Peltier (9.Anthony Wolfe 75); 14.Peter Byers (18.Cyrano Glen 90).
Unused substitutes: 13.Shane Mattis, 28.Hector Sam, 31.Rennie Britto, 34.Fabien Lewis.
Coach: Travis Mulraine
Defence Force (4-1-4-1/4-1-3-1-1): 1.Kevin Graham; 14.Cory Rivers (captain), 2.Glynn Franklyn, 5.Devin Jordan, 21.Aklie Edwards; 8.Curtis Gonzales; 29.Jemel Sebro (17.Ross Russell Jr 75), 18.Sean Narcis (15.Jerwyn Balthazar 60), 12.Josimar Belgrave, 11.Kevon Carter; 10.Devorn Jorsling.
Unused substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke, 4.Marvin Jones, 6.Michael Edwards, 9.Richard Roy, 20.Rodell Elcock.
Coach: Ross Russell
Referee: Neal Brizan
Digicel Pro League
(Fri Feb 1)
Caledonia AIA 3 (Trevin Caesar 34, Akim Armstrong 72, Kareem Joseph 87), Police 1 (Dexter Alleyne 19) at Macoya
Defence Force 1 (Kevon Carter 8), Central FC 1 (Darrell Mitchell 5) at Macoya