A fortuitous equaliser, a harsh red card and the upright all went in favour of North East Stars last night as the Sangre Grande-based team held Defence Force 1-1 at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya in the last Pro League outing before Carnival.
The point did little for either team. Defence Force, the defending champion, remained seventh in the nine-team standings with four games in hand but 17 points shy of present leader, DIRECTV W Connection.
And Stars stayed fourth and three points behind Central FC and Point Fortin Civic.
Stars should have scored first last night as utility player Kennedy Hinkson, who was deployed upfront, found forward Lemuel Lyons criminally unmarked inside the opposing penalty area after 16 minutes. But Lyons’ side-footed effort from 12 yards was too close to Defence Force custodian Sheldon Clarke.
Lyons’ effort was against the run of play, though, and Defence Force deservedly took the lead in the 32nd minute as Jerwyn Balthazar punished some more slack defending with a tidy finish in the far corner after Devorn Jorsling swung a free kick inside the Stars penalty area.
But the final three minutes of the half was the stuff of nightmares for Defence Force coach Ross Russell as defender Devin Jordan unwittingly diverted a Stars pass into Lyons’ path for the equaliser. Lyons was standing behind the opposing defence at the time but referee Marvin Pierre ruled that Jordan’s clumsy touch was a back pass and Stars’ journeyman striker took full advantage to score his first goal since his January move from San Juan Jabloteh.
Things went from bad to worse when Defence Force captain Cory Rivers was ejected for his second yellow card in first half stoppage time after a tangle with Hinkson.
Both players were challenging for the ball and there were flailing arms on both sides. Yet, Rivers seemed to have done little wrong when Hinkson fell dramatically and clutched his face.
Again, Pierre ruled in Stars’ favour.
There was almost a third freakish moment in the 66th minute as Stars midfielder Chike Sullivan misdirected a cross, which a backpedalling Clarke tipped on to his own bar and over for a corner kick.
That was as close as Stars came to capitalising on the numerical advantage and the army/ coast guard combination almost made them pay for a lack of offensive bite.
Jorsling backed into his marker to win a free kick in the 75th minute and then completely fooled Stars goalkeeper and captain Cleon John by sending the free kick towards the corner that he was guarding.
John had already started sneaking across to his right hand post and could only watch flat footed as the ball zipped past him but then clanged off the upright.
It was good as it got in the second half as Stars and Defence Force eventually split the points at Macoya.
Defence Force (4-1-4-1): 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK); 14.Cory Rivers (captain), 6.Rodell Elcock, 5.Devin Jordan, 17.Ross Russell Jr; 4.Dave Long; 12.Jemel Sebro (21.Aklie Edwards 77), 15.Jerwyn Balthazar (18.Sean Narcis 86), 10.Josimar Belgrave (13.Marvin Jones 46), 11.Kevon Carter, 9.Devorn Jorsling.
Unused substitutes: 7.Balondemu Julius, 23.Kerry Joseph, 26.Richard Roy, 70.Dwyane Thomas.
Coach: Ross Russell
North East Stars (4-2-3-1): 22.Cleon John (GK) (captain); 25.Keryn Navarro, 5.Aquil Selby, 19.Glenton Wolfe, 48.Jesus Perez; 6.Jeromie Williams, 12.Jayson Joseph; 8.Keron Cummings (18.Kaashif Thomas 80), 15.Chike Sullivan (4.Keithy Simpson 72), 23.Kennedy Hinkson; 11.Lemuel Lyons (20.Trevin Caesar 58).
Unused substitutes: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 7.Elijah Manners, 39.Andrew Smith, 49.Anthony Diaz.
Coach: Angus Eve
Referee: Marvin Pierre
Pro League result
(Tue Feb 25)
North East Stars 1 (Lemuel Lyons 42), Defence Force 1 (Jerwyn Balthazar 32) at Macoya
[standings league_id=2 template=extend logo=true]