In the end, even Police FC coach Richard Hood was forced to chuckle.
With star custodian Adrian Foncette on trial in Turkey and his back-up Keinol Paul suspended and third choice goalkeeper, Akeemo Morgan, inactive, Hood sidestepped the transfer window and snared young goalkeeper Perry O’Connor, who represented Petit Valley in the 2015 CNG National Super League (NSL) Championship Division.
Pro League rules allow clubs to register under-21 players outside of the transfer period. But it proved to be anything but an inspired signing, as Pro League leaders, Defence Force, cruised into a 4-0 lead by halftime.
And “Teteron Boys” coach Marvin Gordon would be dumbfounded as to how the Army/Coast Guard combination did not add to their advantage after the break.
“One of our players, Kadeem Riley, recommended him as an under-21 player,” said Hood, “so we could have gotten him registered to play…”
O’Connor managed to keep his gloves on for the entire 90 minutes. But he dropped just about everything else.
It meant a second straight loss for Police who have now managed six points from a possible 18 in 2016.
Hood’s officers went into the Christmas break in second place and within striking distance of Defence Force. Now, Police are fifth and can even drop to sixth tonight if Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh surprise defending champions, Central FC, in Couva.
Jemel Sebro, who spent much of this season watching on from the sidelines, was the surprise weapon of choice yesterday evening as he latched on to two crosses from Ross Russell Jr to send Army clear with items in the 14th and 18th minutes.
There was a touch of farce about the second item, which was badly misjudged by O’Connor.
Russell, who is enjoying the best individual season of his career, grabbed his eighth league goal of this season in the 27th minute, as he linked the ball over the Police custodian as though he was not even there.
O’Connor might as well have not been there for Defence Force’s fourth, as Russell headed a Sebro cross straight at the custodian only for him to push the ball into the roof of his own net.
The former Diego Martin North Secondary schoolboy was last out of the dressing room as the two teams emerged for the second half. Maybe he considered not returning to the field at all.
And when O’Connor fumbled a regulation cross from Defence Force right back Curtis Gonzales for a corner kick—although it came straight at him at chest height with little obvious menace—even Hood could not help but crack a smile.
A former North Zone Intercol finalist with Diego Martin North in 2012, perhaps O’Connor was cowed by the opposition. Or maybe the lengthy lay off since his last competitive fixture for Petit Valley on 15 December 2015 affected his form.
Alternately, considering that Petit Valley conceded the fourth highest number of goals in the second tier of the NSL—they let in 39 goals from 18 matches—maybe Hood did not recruit as well as he might have hoped.
But O’Connor did get something to build on for the second half. Defence Force managed just one shot on target for the entire 45 minutes and the Police goalkeeper saved it, as he used his legs to deny Hashim Arcia from close range.
Paul, who was ejected in stoppage time against San Juan Jabloteh on the weekend, should be eligible for Police’s next outing and it seems a safe bet that he would be immediately reinstated between the uprights.
If O’Connor does get a second chance, the good news is that it cannot get much worse for the nervous custodian.
But Police cannot afford another slip up if they are to close the gap on the in-form Defence Force.
Elsewhere in the Pro League yesterday, Point Fortin Civic continued their own slump as a 3-1 defeat at home to Club Sando stretched their run of matches without a win to seven.
Devon Modeste scored on either side of the halftime interval—once from the penalty spot—while Shaquille Holder got the other item for the newly promoted club.
Jamille Boatswain scored Civic’s lone goal, as he registered his fifth goal of the season.
Defence Force (4-2-3-1): 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK); 8.Curtis Gonzales (15.Brandon Fountain 59), 6.Rodell Elcock, 3.Jamali Garcia, 21.Akile Edwards; 52.Stephan Campbell, 18.Sean Narcis; 12.Jemel Sebro (7.Jelani Felix 70), 10.Hashim Arcia, 17.Ross Russell Jr; 9.Devorn Jorsling (captain) (22.Levi Serries 64).
Unused substitutes: 80.Aaron Enill (GK), 4.Dave Long, 16.Kellon Serette, 26.Richard Roy.
Coach: Marvin Gordon
Police FC (4-2-3-1): 22.Perry O’Connor (GK); 7.Clevon McPhee, 5.Anton Hutchinson, 20.Elijah Belgrave, 17.Dexter Alleyne; 21.Todd Ryan (captain) (8.Kurdell Brathwaite 63), 14.Kaaron Foster (3.Kadeem Boyce 76); 10.Kareem Freitas, 9.Makesi Lewis, 19.Christon Thomas (11.Kadeem Riley 80); 16.Keon Wilson.
Unused substitutes: 1.Akeemo Williams (GK), 2.Jasimar Ashers, 13.Ricardo Peltier, 15.Jameel Perry.
Coach: Richard Hood
Referee: Rashby McPhee
Man of the Match: Ross Russell Jr
Pro League results
(Tuesday January 26)
Defence Force 4 (Jemel Sebro 14, 18, Ross Russell Jr 27, 40), Police FC 0 at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic 1 (Jamille Boatswain 51), Club Sando 3 (Devon Modeste 19 pen, 80, Shaquille Holder 22) at Mahaica Oval;
(Wednesday January 27)
St Ann’s Rangers v W Connection, 3.30 pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
Morvant Caledonia United v North East Stars, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Central FC v San Juan Jabloteh, 8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.