Central go for sixth straight win to maintain push for DPL title defence

Photo: Point Fortin Civic midfielder Trent Lougheed puts in a sliding challenge on Central FC midfielder Darren Mitchell in full view of the referee at the Mahaica Oval during the 2014/15 Pro League season.

Monday 29 February 2016

Defending Digicel Pro League champions and current 2015/16 leaders Central FC are targeting full points but bracing for a difficult visit in their third trip to Mahaica Oval this season in all competitions.

Central, recent winners of the Akeem Adams (Round Two) Trophy, are four points clear at the top of the DPL standings with 40 points ahead of Tuesday’s (March 01) 6pm clash with Point Fortin Civic at the Mahaica Oval, which has been favourable to the “Couva Sharks” this season.

However Central are bracing for a difficult contest, said “Couva Sharks” operations director Kevin Harrison.

Harrison added, “Going to Mahaica is always difficult for any team. We never take it for granted going to Mahaica because of the kind of support Civic can get at home.”

Harrison said while his team would like to win the remaining nine league games, the focus is to stay unbeaten. He said Central’s immediate plans are to maintain the team’s current run of form in preparation for the Concacaf Champions League qualifiers and defence of the Caribbean Cup with the “Couva Sharks” scheduled to travel to Jamaica to contest Group 3 of the Caribbean Club Championship against Cayman Islands’ outfit Scholars International SC (March 11) and hosts Montego Bay United (March 13).

“Every game is like a final for us. Not only because we treat it that way, but because a lot of the teams in the Pro League are also highly competitive. No teams are easy opponents, even Club Sando and Rangers have proved that. Maybe after 60 minutes we take over because of our team’s fitness.”

Central, currently on a five-game winning streak, are unbeaten in their last 11 games since promoting assistant coach Dale Saunders as “interim” head coach in mid-December following a split with coach Ross Russell.

Central FC managing director Brent Sancho, a former England-based defender, and his Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup teammate Stern John, a former MLS and England-based standout forward, have since been volunteering their time and knowledge on the training pitch as assistants to Saunders.

Under the new regime, Central crushed Civic 7-0 in January at the Ato Boldon Stadium, eclipsing two previous wins against Civic at Mahaica Oval this season under Russell’s charge.

Civic, who were defeated by visiting Central 3-0 in the league last September and edged 3-2 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in the Toyota Classic preliminary round a month later, are coming off their first home win since December 15 with a 2-1 score over the formidable Police FC two weekends ago while snapping a 10-game winless run.

Civic have utilised the January/February mid-season transfer window to re-call forwards Sylvester Teesdale (Palo Seco United) and Juma Clarence (Marabella Family Crisis Centre), midfielder Trent Lougheed (Barrackpore United), while promoting Nicholas Thomas and Shaquille Dublin from the club’s youth system and added newcomers Jamal John (Siparia Spurs) and Daniel Smith to the midfield roster.

Coach Leroy DeLeon’s side are ninth on the 10-team table, tied on 16 points with eight-positioned Morvant Caledonia United, who will take on fourth-positioned San Juan Jabloteh (29 points) from 4pm at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, third-positioned W Connection (39 points) will clash with fifth-positioned Police FC (27 points) from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium. The “Savonetta Boys” are coming three games in five days with wins over Dominican Republic’s Atlantico FC (4-2), Guadeloupe’s CS Moulien (5-1) and Suriname’s Inter Moengo Tapoe (3-1) in the past week to qualify for the Caribbean Club Championship 2016 semi-final round by winning Group 1 of the preliminary round.

“We are right back at it in the league,” said W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier. “We have to do some recuperation work with the players and prepare them for the league game. Our players don’t really have any time to go down before they start back. They are professionals and this is what it is like when you are a top professional team in this part of the world. We are definitely a top team in the region, and when you are a top team in any part of the world, your schedule will always be tougher than the normal teams.”

One point ahead of Connection on the domestic league front are Defence Force (36 points). The Rawle Fletcher (Round One) Trophy winners will tackle cellar-placed St. Ann’s Rangers (10 points) from 6pm on Tuesday in the first game of a double-header at Ato Boldon Stadium. Seventh-positioned Club Sando (20 points) will welcome sixth-positioned North East Stars (23 points) from 8pm in the second game at the Couva venue.

Digicel Pro League 2015/16
Round Three Match Day One
Tuesday 01 March 2016
Ato Boldon Stadium
St. Ann’s Rangers vs Defence Force—6pm
Club Sando vs North East Stars—8pm

Mahaica Oval
Point Fortin Civic vs Central FC—6pm

Wednesday 02 March 2016
Larry Gomes Stadium
Morvant Caledonia United vs San Juan Jabloteh—4pm

Ato Boldon Stadium
W Connection vs Police FC—6pm