Defence Force stops Civic to return fifth

Defence Force players (left to right) Josimar Belgrave, Curtis Gonzales and Rodell Elcock

ATO BOLDON STADIUM, Couva – Defending Digicel Pro League champions Defence Force are boasting improved optimism following a hard-fought 1-0 win, plucked against third positioned Point Fortin Civic on Sunday night.

“Anything can happen at this stage,” said Defence Force head coach Ross Russell, whose side must face long-standing leaders DIRECTV W Connection twice.

Defender Glynn Franklyn's header off a Kerry Joseph corner from the left in the 34th minute handed Defence Force the winner, snapping an eight-match undefeated run previously held by Civic in the process. But more importantly handed coach Ross Russell's side three valuable points.

The win pushed the Soldiers up a spot into fifth with 26 points, where they sit 11 points away from Connection.

Civic meanwhile, remained fourth with 29 points, three points behind second and third positioned Central FC and North East Stars.

Franklyn, however, celebrated from the stands at the final blow of referee Michael London's whistle, after the goal-scorer was sent off on a direct red card in the 72nd minute for a foul on Civic substitute, Kelvin Modeste.

Nevertheless Russell was grateful for the win, in a Round Three Match Day Two clash that saw Civic hit the upright an unbelievable three times.

“It was very difficult for us," admitted Russell. “I thought Civic were a little sharper than us and they had a lot of players running off the ball, while we are still trying to recover from the long break. We are around eighty-five percent fit.”

Civic's 22-year-old star and the present league leading scorer with 12 goals, Marcus Joseph, saw his blast in the 7th minute crash off the base of the right upright, and from the rebound, teammate Andre Toussaint struck the opposite upright.

Joseph was again denied by the frame in the 56th minute, hitting the near upright, with goalkeeper Kevin Graham and his defenders left stranded by a neat Akeem Redhead pass into the area. But from the rebound, substitute Sean Cooper spilled high and wide from just inside the area.

A minute later Toussaint flashed an effort just wide of the far upright, and the talented attacker did so again in the 65th minute as the Point Fortin club, backed by hundreds of traveling supporters, failed to find the back of the net.

“It's pleasing that our guys were able to dig deep and work hard after playing three games in five days, then getting two days off before this one.”

Defence Force, despite being forced back on numerous occasions, also had multiple tries at goal, beginning with a left footed volley by defensive midfielder Dave Long ten minutes into the match, which forced a save out of goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.

And two minutes later the Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper had to tame a strike by Devorn Jorsling, who was also denied in the 49th minute following a neat play from a throw-in.

Phillip's goal also came under threat on the 24th minute, when a blast from distance by Josimar Belgrave sizzled inches over-bar, and seconds later an evenly powerful crack from the top of the six yard area left the Civic goalie temporarily winded after getting his body in the way.

Civic's upright also got in the way four minutes from the break after defender Weslie John's cut-off on a Jemel Sebro cross, directed the ball onto the side of the frame and luckily out for a corner.

Defence Force had a shout for penalty ignored by London ten minutes into the second period when veteran winger Kerry Joseph went down inside the area after a decent build-up.

Then in the 71st minute Phillip pulled off an excellent save for coach Reynold Carrington's side, keeping out a low strike by Belgrave, who should have done better when K. Joseph played a Sebro cross into his path. And ten minutes from time, Ross Russell Jr. spilled wide with Phillip at his mercy after racing onto running onto a K. Joseph pass inside the area.

Defence Force, with three matches in hand, will temporarily put its league title defence on the back burner as Russell and his charges are scheduled to travel to Jamaica on Wednesday, ahead of fixtures for the 2014 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship first round.

Defence Force are one of two teams that will represent T&T in the regional tournament, which also serves as the Caribbean qualifying phase to the Concacaf Champions League.

Defence Force will contest Group 3 of the Club Championship hosted in Jamaica from March 21-25, against Guyana’s Alpha United, Suriname’s Sporting Vereniging Notch, and home-team Habour View FC.

Meanwhile last season’s Pro League runners-up, Caledonia, will contest Group 2 during the same dates against Sportive de Mirebalais of host country Haiti, Inter Moengotapoe of Suriname and Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC.

Group 1, meanwhile, will be contested in Puerto Rico, with Centro Dominguito of the Netherlands Antilles, Unite Saint Rosienne of Curacao, Cayman Islands outfit Bodden Town and home team Bayamon FC making up that group.

The winner of each group will advance to the semi-final round with automatic berth, Valencia FC of Haiti.

But on Tuesday Digicel Pro League action continues with a Round Three Match Day Three double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium when bottom of the table St. Ann’s Rangers take on Point Fortin Civic from 6 pm and W Connection against San Juan Jabloteh from 8 pm.

Point Fortin Civic 0—1 Defence Force

Glynn Franklyn 34'
Match Referee—Michael London

Point Fortin Civic—1. Marvin Phillip (GK), 17. Glen Sutton (Yellow Card), 8. Steven Joseph, 4. Weslie John, 2. Garyl Doldron (Yellow Card) (29. Kevin Rouse 60th minute), 18. Akeem Redhead, 7. Nickcolson Thomas (C), 35. Kariym Balthazar (15. Sean Cooper 33rd minute), 19. Andrei Pacheco (6. Kelvin Modeste 60th minute), 11. Andre Toussaint, 10. Marcus Joseph

Unused substitutes—26. Miguel Payne (GK), 27. Jarred Bennett, 21. Andre Alexis, 33. Jamille Boatswain

Coach—Reynold Carrington

Defence Force—1. 25. Kevin Graham (GK), 12. Jemel Sebro, 2. Glynn Franklyn, 13. Marvin Jones, 9. Devorn Jorsling (26. Richard Roy 87th minute), 17. Ross Russell Jr., 4. Dave Long (Yellow Card), 10. Josimar Belgrave (6. Rodell Elcock 74th minute), 23. Kerry Joseph (21. Aklie Edwards 84th minute), 8. Curtis Gonzales, 3. Keston Williams (C)

Unused substitutes—25. Sheldon Clarke (GK), 7. Balondemu Julius, 18. Sean Narcis, 14. Corey Rivers

Coach—Ross Russell