First Citizens Cup semis showdown: D/Force train guns on giant killers Civic; Connection, Sando ooze confidence

Photo: Point Fortin Civic goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, centre, attempts to collect to ball ahead of Police FC defender Ryan O'Neil, foreground, while Civic midfielder Trent Lougheed looks on during their First Citizens Cup 2017 Play-off clash at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Oct. 11, 2017.

Point Fortin Civic entered as underdogs, a status coach Reynold Carrington dismisses as his side looks to dethrone First Citizens Cup holders Defence Force for a place in the 2017 final.

Defence Force and Civic will tackle each other in the first game of a semi-final double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Friday from 6pm before record seven-time champions W Connection and Club Sando lock horns in semi-final two from 8pm.

Civic defeated Police FC 4-1 on penalties following a goalless draw in the play-offs before stunning Pro League leaders North East Stars 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

“If other teams want to see us as underdogs that’s okay, once we don’t see ourselves that way,” said Carrington. “We want get past Defence Force and on to the final were we want to lift the trophy.”

Civic, although occupying the tail end of the PL standings, have also progressed past the first three stages of the FA Trophy to reach the quarterfinal stage of that knockout tournament along with Defence Force, W Connection, Morvant Caledonia United, Police FC, and second tier league sides Guaya United and Club Sando Moruga, and 1976 FC Phoenix of Tobago.

“We have really now started to gel,” continued the Civic coach. “(…) finding our strengths and being able to win games as we have done in the First Citizens Cup and FA Trophy. Unfortunately we were unable to get that sort of momentum in the league.”

Civic played to a goalless draw against Defence Force in Round One of the Pro League last July but lost narrowly, 1-0 when both sides met last Tuesday in Round Two.

“That game [on Tuesday] could have gone any way,” insisted Carrington. “But we gave up chances. We are aware that we need to improve in all areas especially in and around the box.”

But Defence Force, 4-2 penalty winners over San Juan Jabloteh following an electrifying 3-3 quarterfinal draw, wants to win “by all means necessary” according to Marvin Gordon, head coach of the three-time First Citizens Cup champions.

“We have a great desire to win [against Civic] and go on to the final to try and defend the title,” said Gordon who won the title in 2002 as a Defence Force player, in 2009 as assistant coach to then Army coach Ross Russell, and 2016 as head coach.

“We know it won’t be an easy game. We beat them (Civic) on Tuesday [in the league] and no team, no coach would want you beat them twice in one week.

“But we are going to give it everything we have. The comradery in our team, the younger players starting to believe in themselves and being more competitive in training, have all contributed to the run we are on. We have won nine games in our last ten [in all competitions] and every player of ours want to be part of it.”

Meanwhile Connection, First Citizens Cup champions of 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2015, and Sando, two sides into the 2017 semis with comfortable 3-1 wins over Central FC and Morvant Caledonia, respectively, will put aside their top-two league aspirations for Friday’s contest.

Sando head coach Angus Eve has continuously stated a top-two finish in the league -- which qualifies Trinidadian teams for CONCACAF qualifiers -- is priority for the Oranges, but his side will not roll over against Connection with a place in the First Citizens Cup final at stake.

“It’s an opportunity to be in a final,” Eve said. “Last season we (Sando) missed out on a final [in the Pro Bowl] losing 5-4 on penalties against Central in the semis and we want to right that wrong.

“We are just in our third season at the Pro League level – my second season with the team – and we are doing pretty well. We are playing really good football and have national selections out of our squad. Now it’s to get into finals and start to win finals.”

Connection, who are two points ahead of Sando on the Pro League standings, but nine points adrift of leaders North East Stars with three regular games left, defeated Sando 3-1 in Round One of the league in June but were held to a 1-1 draw when both sides met in Round Two in October.

“I had brought in five or six players and when we played Connection for the first time this season it was only our third game and a third straight loss for us simply because our guys didn’t have that cohesion. It was my mistake using all the new players at once but since then we have restructured the team and now everybody are on their toes ready and sharp to play. We have rotated our squad in games and it has been working for us.

“I believe in all 19 players I have on my staff and believe in the rotation we will use against Connection. Our league game on Tuesday was postponed due to the inclement weather and so did Connection’s game, so we are two well-rested teams.”

Connection too are confident of reaching this season’s First Citizens Cup final.

“When we last played Sando it was our second game in three days and we gave away a soft penalty in the 1-1 draw,” explained W Connection coach Stuart Charles Fevrier. “This game (First Citizens Cup semi-final) will be under better conditions and this time around we have a very good chance of winning the game.

““It’s a semi-final game and we are a tough game. Sando are a good team and have been doing quite well this season. The season has been tough for almost for everyone in the league, but all clubs have given best under the circumstances. We know that it is also a very important game for Sando because it’s an opportunity for both teams to go on to win a title this year.

“But at Connection we always pride ourselves having hardly ever gone a season without winning a title, and this semi-final gives us an opportunity to go on and to win a title… and we are confident we can.”

First Citizens Cup 2017
Semi-Final Round

(Friday 3 November 2017)
Point Fortin Civic vs Defence Force, 6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection vs Club Sando, 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.