Depleted Central FC seek home support at Gilbert Park

'Couva Sharks' welcome Police on Sunday

Police FC full-back Christon Thomas, #19, is caged by “Couva Sharks” as he tries to outrun his opponents during their semi-final round clash of the recently concluded First Citizens Cup.

Saturday 8 November 2014

In a repeat of last month's First Citizens Cup semi-final round clash, Central FC will welcome Police FC from 3.30 pm on Sunday at Gilbert Park (also known as Brechin Castle), in Couva, in their Round One Match Day Four clash of the 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League.

Two weeks ago Central, equipped with Trinidad and Tobago internationals goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and midfielders Ataulla Guerra and Leston Paul, got past Police but needed kicks from the penalty spot to defeat the "Lawmen" 3-1, following a 0-0 draw, to advance into the Final of the 2014 First Citizens Cup, which the "Couva Sharks" eventually won.

But for Sunday’s contest, Central will stand without the "Soca Warriors" trio, who are all part of the T&T squad to contest the Caribbean Cup Finals in Jamaica from November 11-18.

And the problems for Central FC coach Zoran Vranes worsened over the last few days when midfielder Jason Marcano (suspected case of dengue) joined the list of side-lined players.

Pre-season midfield signing Elijah Manners, yet to make his debut for the “Couva Sharks”, is still recovering from a fractured fibula (calve bone), while midfielder Qian Grovsner, who was also signed in pre-season, is suffering from illness and will not be available on Sunday.

Left-back Keion Goodridge, yet to start this season, is recovering from an ankle injury, while utility player Kadion Gabriel, who missed his team's 1-0 win over North East Stars in the Final of the First Citizens Cup through card suspension a week ago, had a suspected case of dengue but is believed to have fully recovered and will be part of Vranes squad on Sunday.

“For us it’s tough,” said Vranes. “Can you imagine missing about eight starters? But despite everything we are expecting a good performance. Our players are looking forward to a good result. It’s also a good opportunity for the players (who are getting starting roles) to show what they can really do.

“When we played Police (two weeks ago) it was a very close game and we are expecting the same on Sunday. They have a couple quality players, some former (Trinidad and Tobago) national players and some very experienced.”

Vranes said that Gilbert Park playing surface isn’t to a professional standard and that the earlier day time temperature can be an additional problem “but we would see how best we can adjust to the conditions because we are professionals”.

A win for Central, second on the standings with 7 points, will hurdle Vranes’ side over leaders San Juan Jabloteh (8 points) for the top spot, while a win for Police can improve the Blues’ position from seventh to third.

“We are challenging the league title so we must play under the present circumstance (of not having a number of starters available,” concluded Vranes.

Denzil “Deo” Daniel, a 20-year-old Londonville midfielder promoted from the Central Reserve Team this season, is one of the players still fresh from a winners’ medal performance in the First Citizens Cup Final and should be a starter for Vranes on Sunday.

“It will be the first Pro League game played at Gilbert Park for several years,” said Central FC team manager Kevin Jeffrey via a press release by the club. “It will be great for the players to play in front of a truly home crowd. We are hoping to see over 500 fans come out on Sunday to cheer on the team.

“The game is free to everybody. There will be half time entertainment, [music] and food on sale, so there’s no reason for the community not to come out and support.”

Police meanwhile will be without goalkeeper Adrian Foncette, who was selected by T&T head coach Steven Hart as a third ‘keeper for the Caribbean Cup Finals, while defender Anton Hutchinson (ankle), midfielder Kurdell Braithwaite (illness) and Perry-brothers Jameel (groin) and Kareem (back) are all side-lined.

However Police head coach Richard Hood sees every opportunity against one of the top teams as a plus, and Sunday’s match is the same.

“I view it (Sunday’s league match) as very important because we want to establish ourselves as a top team in the League,” said Hood. “And we can only do so by our performances against the better teams.

“We are not concerned too much about the venue or their (Central) supporters. The game is played on the pitch. Our focus is on executing our game plan and neutralising what they do,” ended the Police FC coach.