Trinidad and Tobago will have to wait until Sunday night to book their place in the next Caribbean qualifying round, after the hosts settled for a 1-1 draw tonight against St Kitts and Nevis at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
It might easily have been worse for the Women Soca Warriors who trailed for 77 minutes, only to snatch a late equaliser via a Tasha St Louis free kick.
Striker Mariah Shade and midfielder Karyn “Baby” Forbes both hit the bar while SKN custodian Kyra Dickinson made at least three outstanding saves to keep out Trinidad and Tobago.
The hosts took the kick-off at 6:30pm but Karyn Forbes immediately conceded possession and SKN took the initiative straightaway. After winning two corners within the first 56 seconds, the visitors forced an early error as defender Ayana Russell stopped the ball with a combination of thigh and hand.
Cuban referee Suleimy Linares pointed to the penalty spot and St Kitts and Nevis captain Phoenetia Browne made no mistake, coolly placing the ball to the left of opposing goalkeeper Saundra Baron. The game was exactly two minutes and 13 seconds old at that point.
The visitors had a chance to double their advantage in the 20th minute, as Baron punched a dangerous free kick into the path of opposing attacker Brittney Lawrence, whose snap-shot was just wide.
Lawrence was one of four foreign-based players in SKN’s starting team. And, led by the electric touchline movements of coach Earl Jones, the two-island country—the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere with a population of just 55,000—set out to make things as difficult as possible for the reigning Caribbean champions in their own backyard.
“Coachman, I am not going to let you down tonight,” Dickinson told Jones before kick-off.
And the Sweden-based custodian was true to her word, producing superb saves from Shade (34th minute), St Louis (57th) and substitute Aaliyah Prince (81st). She could not keep them all out, though.
Agonisingly, she got a hand to St Louis’ 79th minute free kick but could not keep the ball from crossing her goal line for Trinidad and Tobago’s equaliser. The item changed the complexion of Group C, as the Women Warriors regained pole position by a superior goal differential of two items.
On Sunday evening, St Kitts and Nevis tackle the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) at 4pm while Trinidad and Tobago face Grenada at 6:30pm in the final double-header of the group stage.
The USVI have a goal difference of -10 at present, while Grenada’s tally stands at -13. They can expect those figures to rise this weekend. Whatever score St Kitts and Nevis rack up, Trinidad and Tobago just need to get within two goals of that figure in the group’s closing affair.
It is not the sort of uncertainty that local fans would have expected at this stage of the competition.
Last night on TV6, former team captain Maylee Attin-Johnson publicly turned down an invitation from coach Jamaal Shabazz to join the squad, declaring that she had no confidence in the current technical staff.
On Sunday evening, it might not be just the players who are fighting for their immediate futures.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-4-2): 1.Saundra Baron (GK); 4.Rhea Belgrave, 2.Ayana Russell (19.Aaliyah Prince 63), 5.Jenelle Cunningham, 7.Jonelle Cato; 8.Patrice Superville, 14.Karyn Forbes, 11.Janine Francois (18.Naomie Guerra 70), 12.Shanelle Arjoon (16.Kedie Johnson 63); 9.Mariah Shade, 10.Tasha St Louis.
Unused substitutes: 20.Nicolette Craig (GK), 3.Anastasia Prescott, 6.Natasha St Louis, 13.Andrea Young, 15.Taylor Mims, 17.Shaunalee Govia.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz
St Kitts and Nevis (4-2-1-3): 18.Kyra Dickinson (GK); 8.Lavern Francis, 3.Rozel Liburd, 12.Tarvia Phillip, 6.Tyra Wilkinson; 10.Leranja Wilkinson (16.Arielle Fernandez 90+2), 15.Allison Williams (4.Shandor Wilkinson 69); 5.Cloey Uddenberg; 7.Caroline Springer (14.Iyania Bailey-Williams 62), 11.Phoenetia Browne (captain), 13.Brittney Lawrence.
Unused substitutes: 1.Tynette McKoy, 2.Juniequa Matthew, 9.Lauren Williams, 17.Christi-anne Mills, 19.Ruzella Tucker, 20.Jasonna Williams.
Coach: Earl Jones
Referee: Suleimy Linares (Cuba)
2019 World Cup qualifiers Group C
(Saturday 19 May)
St Kitts and Nevis 2 (Brittney Lawrence 8, 11), Dominica 1 (Romelcia Phillip 10) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 10 (Patrice Superville 16, Mariah Shade 36, 40, 81, 89, Karyn Forbes 37, Tasha St Louis 39, Jenelle Cunningham 43, Kedie Johnson 60, Katelyn Wiater OG 73), USVI 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Monday 21 May)
USVI 3 (Maya Wright 74, Bianca Canizio 89, Tamika Aguilar 90+2), Grenada 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Jenelle Cunningham 5, Rhea Belgrave 36, Karyn Forbes 54), Dominica 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium.
(Wednesday 23 May)
St Kitts and Nevis 10 (Cloey Uddenberg 6, 19, 71, Phoenetia Browne 9, 52, Brittney Lawrence 40, 73, 85, Iyania Bailey-Williams 86, Leranja Wilkinson 89), Grenada 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
USVI 0, Dominica 3 (Keanna Francis 23, Romelcia Phillip 49, 88) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Friday 25 May)
Grenada 1, Dominica 1 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Tasha St Louis 79), St Kitts and Nevis 1 (Phoenetia Browne 2 pen) at Ato Boldon Stadium.
(Sunday 27 May)
St Kitts and Nevis vs USVI, 4pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Grenada vs Trinidad and Tobago, 6:30pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.
Editor’s Note: See Wired868 tomorrow for final report with quotes from both coaches.