‘Dogfight’ expected when First Citizens Cup rolls into Morvant

​Photo: ​Morvant Caledonia United defender Ordell Flemming, left, and Defence Force winger Jemel Sebro vie for the ball during their Digicel Pro League clash at the Morvant Recreation Ground on Sunday Nov. 6, 2016.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Central FC head coach Dale Saunders anticipates a “dog fight” when the First Citizens Cup—one of the Pro League’s most prestigious knockout tournaments—rolls into Morvant for quarter-final action.

Central will take on Morvant Caledonia United from 3:30pm on Sunday at the Morvant Recreation Ground with both two-time former First Citizens Cup champions vying for a place in the semi-finals on Tuesday Nov. 22.

The Morvant Recreation Ground, which is glorified as one of the best supported venues across Trinidad after hosting just two Digicel Pro League contests this season, will mark its debut in a knockout competition – the First Citizens Cup -- which brings with it a number of fan giveaways and entertainment on and off the field.

The Park Street venue had estimates averaging between 2,500 and 3,000 spectators when home side Morvant Caledonia hosted San Juan Jabloteh on Oct. 16 and Defence Force on Nov. 6, but the playing surface didn’t stand well under rainy conditions in both instances.

“We won’t be able to open the field [and pass the ball around] like at the stadium and play nice entertaining football [because of the condition of the playing surface],” said Saunders. “So we expect it to be a dog fight. It’s something we will have to adjust to as any professional team must. We are professionals and the focus is just trying to win matches and win titles.

“We are happy with the effort of the Pro League to have games in the communities of clubs. It’s something that should have been done a long time ago – it augurs well for the league.”

Morvant Caledonia, under their former name Caledonia AIA, won the First Citizens Cup back-to-back in 2011 and 2012, before Central FC, then a newly formed club, followed similar feat in 2013 and 2014. It was the first ever title lifted by Central, who are currently two-time reigning Caribbean Club Champions and two-time Digicel Pro League champions.

“It’s important to win this title again,” continued the Central coach. “It means a lot to us. So we will do everything possible within the rules of the game to try and be champions again.”

Central will be without first choice goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and ace forwards Marcus Joseph and Kenwyne Jones, who like Morvant Caledonia first choice goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, are currently with the Trinidad and Tobago national team for World Cup 2018 qualifiers, while there is some doubt over left full-back Kevon Villaroel with a thigh injury.

Saunders, though, who has led the Couva Sharks to five wins, including a 2-1 result over Morvant Caledonia on Oct. 25, and one draw in six league games to dominate the DPL standings, added that he has confidence in every available player.

Likewise, Morvant Caledonia head coach Rajesh Latchoo has total confidence in his players including second choice goalkeeper Stephon Seepersad, who has just two starts this season.

“I am most confident in Stephon,” said Latchoo. “He and [goalkeeper] Hakim Lukas have showed improvement. Marvin (Phillip) has been a really good mentor to both Stephon and Hakim and now that Marvin isn’t here, the whole team is confident that we still have a good ‘keeper in the goal.”

Latchoo’s side head into Sunday’s quarter-final clash coming off back-to-back draws in the league against Club Sando (3-3) and Defence Force (1-1) and are sixth on the DPL standings—but have never won at the Morvant Recreation Ground after two attempts.

“Now is for the win,” continued Latchoo, whose side haven’t won a game since a 3-1 result over Point Fortin Civic at the start of their league campaign on Sep. 30. “Our players are looking forward to this game, the staff are looking forward to this game.

“We are starting to get right. “[Coming off back-to-back draws] helped a whole lot in terms of the confidence. It showed that we refuse to lose and that’s the first step in becoming winners. Our defenders are improving. Once we don’t lapse and concede goals we would win the game because every single game we are going to score.

“We are glad we have Central, just the same way they are happy with the [First Citizens Cup] draw. I felt we underachieved when we played them (Central) in the league, and this game we need to set things right.”

Latchoo also said that his players are now beginning to understanding what it is to be accountable to the club’s supporters and sponsors by playing at home. “[Our] players are now getting a taste of playing for the people. When you play bad they won’t like you, and when you play good they would love you. This is good for our players, especially the ones who will go on to represent the national team. It will bring out the best in you.”

Meanwhile Central head coach Saunders isn’t alarmed by the Morvant home support. “We (Central) are accustomed to it,” said Saunders of his side, who, in the past two seasons have had the experience of playing away to CONCACAF Champions League opponents. “We are familiar with playing in front of thousands and playing in Morvant won’t be different.”

First Citizens Cup 2016
Quarter Final Round

(Saturday, November 12, 2016)
Ato Boldon Stadium
Defence Force vs St. Ann’s Rangers—4pm (C)
W Connection vs Ma Pau Stars—6pm (D)

(Sunday, November 13, 2016)
Morvant Recreation Ground
Central FC vs Morvant Caledonia United—3:30pm (B)

Ato Boldon Stadium
(Monday, November 14, 2016)
Police FC vs Point Fortin Civic—6pm (A)

Semi Final Round
(November 22)
A vs D
B vs C

(December 2)

Play-off Round results
(Tuesday, November 8, 2016)
Club Sando 0 vs Defence Force 1 (Hashim Arcia 53’), at the Ato Boldon Stadium;

San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Kennedy Hinkson 81’) vs Ma Pau Stars 1 (Kerry Daniel 57’)
Ma Pau Stars won the game 3-1 on kicks from the penalty mark, at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

Kicks from the penalty spot
Ma Pau Stars 3                       San Juan Jabloteh 1
Elton John (saved)                  Josiah Trimmingham (scored)
Neil Mitchell (scored)             Tyrone Charles (saved)
Keryn Navarro (scored)          Nathan Lewis (saved)
Hayden Tinto (scored)            Kion Joseph (saved)