Terry Fenwick’s career as Central FC coach began with defeat to DIRECTV W Connection and it was written in the stars that it would end the same way.
Last night, in a Digicel Pro Bowl semifinal fixture at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Fenwick, one of the greatest coaches of Trinidad and Tobago’s professional era, closed his account with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out defeat to his great rival on the island after leading for 72 minutes of the 90 minute match.
Connection will now meet Police FC in next Friday’s Pro Bowl final after the latter team stunned Defence Force with a 4-2 win in regulation time.
Connection siblings, Joevin and Alvin Jones, have received much attention for their match winning performances at the business end of the Pro League. Yesterday was the turn of the Perry family as brothers Jameel and Kareem Perry blew away the Army/Coast Guard combination with some fantastic finishing.
Tall, strong, mobile and nimble, Jameel finally brought all his attributes to a big game as he terrorised Defence Force throughout. In the 24th minute, he pounced on an error by young defender Jamali Garcia and outmuscled Keston Williams before squeezing his shot past goalkeeper Kevin Graham.
Jameel’s second, 13 minutes later, showed his more elegant side as he twisted opposing captain Cory Rivers into knots before firing home on a counter attack.
But his younger brother Kareem, a busy winger, upstaged him in the second half with two tremendous angled blasts from the edge of the penalty area that whistled into the top right hand corner. And, despite items from teenaged winger Akeem Roach and versatile attacker Josimar Belgrave, the “Teteron Boys” never looked capable of securing a result.
The match did end on a sour note though as, in stoppage time, referee Cecile Hinds ejected Kareem for a second bookable offence for time wasting. Arguably, it takes a heart of stone to condemn the stand-out to miss his team’s first final in this millennium for such a non-threatening act.
But then sentiment tends to be in short supply whenever Fenwick and W Connection are within touching distance of each other.
Fenwick’s San Juan Jabloteh knocked Connection off its perch, a decade earlier, and the combative Englishman set himself the same goal when he joined the “Couva Sharks” in January 2013. Twenty fours after his unveiling last year, Fenwick was spanked 3-0 by Connection thanks to a Shahdon Winchester hattrick.
It was not until the fourth “Clásico Couva” that Fenwick managed a win; and, even then, it required penalties. But, by 2014, the tide appeared to have turned.
Connection was fortunate to recover from a two goal deficit to tie Central in February after a dubious Joevin Jones penalty in the 89th minute and a stoppage time equaliser from Dimitrie Apai. But the Sharks romped to a 3-0 win in the next derby and then beat the “Savonetta Boys” 2-1 to take the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield trophy.
Last week, Fenwick submitted his resignation letter to Central after agreeing terms with lower league Belgium club, CS Visé. But, unsurprisingly, he decided to postpone his trip to Europe for a final Clásico.
Thirteen minutes into the affair, it looked as if the maverick Pro League coach in the number 17 jersey—he said it his lucky number since he was born on November 17—would get his fairytale send-off after all.
Willis Plaza, who played for Fenwick at Jabloteh and re-united with the Englishman in January, spun away from Connection defender Joel Russell, another former Fenwick student who was filling in for Vietnam-bound teammate Daneil Cyrus, to fire into the corner.
For much of the first half, Connection had no answer for Plaza. The V-League has been criticised for its suspect quality among other reasons; yet Plaza’s example suggests it might not be all bad.
A bustling, workmanlike attacker when he left Trinidad for Song Lam Nghe, Plaza returned as a composed centre forward. His first touch and intelligent movement has been one of the highlights of the season and he is the Pro League’s joint top scorer in all competitions despite missing four months of action.
But Plaza, who hit the upright in the 33rd minute, could not put the match to bed when Central had complete control and, predictably, Connection clawed itself back into contention.
Central custodian Jan-Michael Williams, a former Connection captain, pushed a Kurt Frederick effort off his bar in the first half while an angled Alvin Jones effort was awkwardly diverted across the face of his own goal.
In the 50th minute, Williams fended away an improvised volley from Joevin Jones while he must have breathed a sigh of relief when Russell blasted over in the 68th minute.
By then, Plaza looked spent. He was booked for a stamp on Connection captain Gerard Williams in the 61st minute and then needed medical attention after taking a Joevin free kick flush in the face, four minutes later.
Central winger Rundell Winchester seemed exhausted too while playmaker Ataullah Guerra restricted his best moves to non-threatening parts of the field.
Fenwick sent on tidy midfielder Sean De Silva but left Winchester and Plaza on the field to finish the job. Perhaps the Englishman did not have sufficient faith in his bench.
Either way, Central appeared to be in “fingers crossed” mode and Connection thrives on such hesitancy.
“I changed the tactics too quickly,” said Fenwick, after the match. “I should have gone another 10 or 20 minutes in the second half looking for a second goal; because we were the better team. I shot myself in the foot by going defensive and playing for the counter too early.”
Still, there was a slice of luck in the equaliser; who knows where Stefano Rijssel’s cross-cum-shot was heading before it deflected off a Central defender and flew past Williams at his near post. With no other goal in the final five minutes of regulation time and three minutes of stoppage time, referee Gyasi McDonald signalled for penalties.
The last time the Couva neighbours had a shoot-out, Fenwick did not stay to see it. He bolted to his SUV and drove to Port of Spain; only to be told over the phone that the Sharks had won.
But, in potentially his last game as Central boss, it would have been too surreal if he chose a premature departure again. So he stayed to watch from the sidelines. He may wish he hadn’t.
Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald, a St Kitts and Nevis international, saved the first two kicks from Plaza and Elton John; and, although Arcia smacked his effort off the bar, the Jones brothers and Mekeil Williams produced superb finishes to give Connection a 3-1 lead.
There was an inevitable moment of farce as McDonald blew off the match after Leston Paul’s precise kick to howls of anger from the Central players and bemusement from patrons. Did McDonald really doze off in the midst of such an intriguing contest?
Seconds later, Gerard Williams sent his namesake, Jan-Michael, the wrong way to complete the job.
“They think it is all over,” said BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, in his memorable coverage of England’s 1966 World Cup win. “It is now.”
But it was Connection players who celebrated.
As usual, there were no handshakes between the rival coaches at the final whistle. And there were reports of a verbal clash between Fenwick and an enthusiastic Connection technical staff member in the tunnel after the match.
But, on the record, Connection’s Stuart Charles-Fevrier was gracious in victory.
“I hope it works out for him (in Belgium),” Fevrier told Wired868. “He is an experienced man who has played the game at the highest level (and) I don’t see anything that prevents him from doing well.
“Everything is down to the support he gets at the club he goes to and the quality of the players he has there; because he has certainly demonstrated his quality as a coach.”
The former England World Cup defender married his Trinidadian sweetheart, CTV corporate lawyer Reyna Fenwick née Kowlessar, in January 2014 and intends to eventually retire in this country.
But, in potentially his last match as a coach in the two island republic, Fenwick succumbed to the other English cliché. He bowed out on penalty kicks.
W Connection (4-2-1-3): 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 39.Alvin Jones, 19.Joel Russell, 15.Mekeil Williams, 2.Kurt Frederick; 3.Gerard Williams (captain), 7.Silvio Spann (40.Jomal Williams 68); 10.Joevin Jones; 20.Stefano Rijssel, 14.Hashim Arcia, 12.Jerrel Britto (65.Neil Benjamin Jr 65).
Unused substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 13.Devaughn Elliot, 25.Christian Viveros, 26.Eden Charles, 29.Jem Gordon.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 24.Akeem Benjamin, 2.Elton John, 50.Yohance Marshall, 11.Darren Mitchell; 10.Marvin Oliver (captain), 6.Leston Paul; 7.Jason Marcano (4.Sean De Silva 74), 45.Ataullah Guerra, 17.Rundell Winchester; 1.Willis Plaza.
Unused substitutes: 25.Javon Sample (GK), 9.Dwight Quintero, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 18.Kevon Goddard, 22.Keon Trim, 27.Samuel Delice.
Coach: Terry Fenwick
Referee: Gyasi McDonald
Digicel Pro Bowl semifinals
(Fri May 16)
Police FC 4 (Jameel Perry 24, 37, Kareem Perry 53, 56), Defence Force 2 (Akeem Roach 45, Josimar Belgrave 82) at Couva
W Connection 1 (Stefano Rijssel 85), Central FC 1 (Willis Plaza 13) at Couva
*–W Connection won 4-2 on penalties