Central FC managing director Brent Sancho declared last week that the recruitment of “Soca Warrior” Ataullah Guerra was a key step to challenging for a top two Pro League finish and a place in next year’s Caribbean Club Championship.
It can still happen, of course. But yesterday’s 1-1 draw with San Juan Jabloteh at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain provided another reason why the “Couva Sharks” should not get ahead of themselves.
A win would have propelled Central to second. Instead, the Sharks stayed sixth in the nine team table.
As Shaquille Bertrand pulled Jabloteh level from the penalty spot, two minutes into stoppage time, Central coach Terry Fenwick booted a water bottle halfway down the touchline. If only the Englishman could still count on such a reaction from his squad.
In Central’s last seven games against Pro League opposition in league and cup action, the Sharks have managed just one win; and that came against table proppers, St Ann’s Rangers. Even then, Central needed a 88th minute winner from Jason Marcano to see off a Rangers team stuffed with teenagers and which managed just three points from its previous six games.
To be kind, it is not championship form. And, arguably, it could not have come against a worse opponent.
The lion’s share of Jabloteh’s silverware was won while Fenwick was head coach. But the relationship between the two parties soured drastically after title sponsor CL Financial went belly up and, at present, Fenwick only communicates with his former club through lawyers as they wrangle over unpaid salaries.
Six of the Central squad yesterday once played with Fenwick at Jabloteh. It would be unfair to say they were not bothered but the Sharks certainly found their Jabloteh opponents to be much more difficult to nail than a motionless bottle.
In fact, Jabloteh should have scored first after just 15 minutes. A swift counter attack and measured pass from Jabloteh midfielder Dwane James released Jevon Morris in the opposing area but Morris failed to hit the target with only Central custodian Jan-Michael Williams for company.
James, incidentally, made his debut for Jabloteh yesterday since leaving Rangers and the utility player acquitted himself well in midfield.
In contrast, Guerra, who spent last year on loan with Finland Premier League club RoPS, made little meaningful impact for much of the 90 minutes. Too often, Central preferred to lump the ball into the channels than seek out its exciting new signing.
And, when Guerra did get the ball, he was often crowded and without players running off of him to open up space. There was just not enough movement and tempo within Central’s ranks.
Yet, the Warrior still managed to create the Central’s best chance with a clever flick through the centre for Johan Peltier to sprint clear of the Jabloteh defence and tuck home in the 49th minute.
Central was not particularly playing well but then neither was Jabloteh. And when Jabloteh coach Keith Jeffrey followed his substitution of Rennie Britto by hooking Kerry Baptiste, the team captain and Pro League’s leading scorer, it appeared that the “San Juan Kings” had raised the white flag.
Together, Britto and Baptiste have 11 League goals this season. The entire Central squad has managed just 12.
But then misfortune struck. Two minutes into stoppage time, Bertrand drove a cross off Central defender Elton John’s arm and there could be no qualms when referee Cecile Hinds pointed to the spot.
Bertrand finished with aplomb as he sent Williams the wrong way. And Fenwick let the bottle have it.
Who knows what the combustible Englishman has in store for his team. Whatever it is, Sancho needs Fenwick and his team to deliver quickly.
Central FC (4-1-2-3): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 2.Elton John, 24.Akeem Benjamin, 12.Jamal Jack; 10.Marvin Oliver (captain), 13.Johan Peltier (11.Darren Mitchell 81), 45.Ataullah Guerra, 22.Keon Trim (23.Hector Sam 74), 9.Dwight Quintero, 17.Rundell Winchester (7.Jason Marcano 56).
Unused substitutes: 25.Javon Sample (GK), 18.Kevon Goddard, 20.Nicholas Dillon.
Coach: Terry Fenwick
San Juan Jabloteh (3-4-2-1): 1.Kevin Dodds (GK); 26.Keino Goodridge, 6.Dario Holmes, 12.Jamal Spencer; 25.Alfie James, 20.Dwane James, 17.Kerry Daniel (18.Jevon Morris 11), 16.Nyron Jones; 14.Shaquille Bertrand, 7.Rennie Britto (9.Jelani Felix 77); 10.Kerry Baptiste (captain) (11.Akel James 84).
Unused substitutes: 4.Trevon Lester, 13.Savion Kirton, 19.Dillon Kirton, 22.Shane Hospedales.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Pro League results
(Sun Dec 5)
Central FC 1 (Johan Peltier 49), San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Shaquille Bertrand 90+ pen) at Hasely Crawford
(Sat Dec 4)
North East Stars 1 (Trevin Caesar 36), St Ann’s Rangers 0 at Larry Gomes
(Fri Jan 3)
Caledonia AIA 2 (Jamal Gay 7, 63), Point Fortin Civic 1 (Kendall Davis 57) at Hasely Crawford
W Connection 1 (Jerrel Britto 48), Defence Force 1 (Kevon Carter 74) at Hasely Crawford[standings league_id=1 template=extend logo=true]