Two team million dollar Pro League race: Belgrave hat-trick pushes Defence Force within point of Connection

Defence Force goalscorers Josimar Belgrave, left, and Curtis Gonzales during Fiday's 4-0 rescheduled Digicel Pro League Round Three Match Day Four win at the Ato Boldon Stadium
The once mighty lead of longstanding Digicel Pro League leaders W Connection is no more, making for a very interesting end to the 2013/2014 championship.

The “Savonnetta Boys” were occupying seats in the stands, awaiting to lock horns with bitter Couva rivals Central FC in the Final of the 2014 Lucozade Sport Goal Shield from 8.10 pm on Friday night at the Ato Boldon Stadium, when defending league champions Defence Force, capitalizing on scoring opportunities, made the best of a rescheduled Round Three Match Day Four fixture against Caledonia AIA at the very same Couva venue.

A hat-trick by useful attacker Josimar Belgrave and a goal from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Curtis Gonzales saw the Ross Russell coached-Defence Force defeat Caledonia 4-0 for their ninth straight league win to secure position capable of defending the title.

The win improved the army/coastguard combination’s position to second position with 44 points, one point less than leaders Connection (45 points), who they must tackle back-to-back on May 4 and 6 before ending the season against San Juan Jabloteh on May 13. Connection meanwhile will end against Caledonia on the same day.

Belgrave, released free behind the Caledonia defense by a Curtis Gonzales pass over the top, gave the Dafence Force a 1-0 lead against the run of play by the 28th minute after slipping a low strike through the legs of Caledonia goalkeeper Shemel Louison.

And within the space of the following four minutes, midfielder Jerwyn Balthazar, who much later curled an effort wide in the 89th minute, wasted over-bar from inside the area after a Corey Rivers cross was knocked down into his path. Then his header off an Akeem Roach cross was too tame to trouble Louison.

But by the 36th minute the Grenada national team goalie was beaten a second time as Defence Force celebrated a second although Caledonia were dominating play, especially with a top drawer performance by midfielder Keyon Edwards.

Louison was beaten from close range by Gonzales, who cleaned up on a scoffed effort by Belgrave following a well worked pass by Ross Russell Jr.

Caledonia, only forcing a one-handed save out of Defence Force goalie Kevin Graham five minutes from the break from a well struck Pernell Schultz attempt, went on to concede two more in the second half.

Belgrave, taking advantage on two goal mouth opportunities, rushed in and towered at the back post, unchallenged, to head in a well placed Russell Jr. cross from the left in the 69th minute. And from much close in the 82nd minute the forward making the best of his starts in the place on injured forward Devorn Jorsling (hamstring), completed his hat-trick and his team’s 4-0 score by knocking over the line a pass across the six yard area by substitute Balondemu Julius.

Digicel Pro League 2013/2014
Rescheduled Round Three Match Day Four fixture
Defence Force 4—0 Caledonia AIA

Josimar Belgrave 28’, 69’, 82’, Curtis Gonzales 36’

Defence Force FC—1. Kevin Graham (GK), 14. Corey Rivers (C), 3. Keston Williams, 4. Dave Long (7. Balondemu Julius 78th minute), 6. Rodell Elcock, 8. Curtis Gonzales, 15. Jerwyn Balthazar, 17. Ross Russell Jr., 21. Aklie Edwards (31. Thurlani George 83rd minute), 30. Akeem Roach (23. Kerry Joseph 67th minute), 10. Josimar Belgrave

Unused substitutes—5. Devin Jordan, 18. Sean Narcis, 25. Sheldon Clarke (GK), 13. Marvin Jones

Coach—Ross Russell

Caledonia AIA—1. Shemel Louison (GK), 4. Nuru Abdullah Muhammad (C), 5. Akeem Thomas, 2. Jabari Brathwaite (18. Denron Frederick 76th minute), 8. Keron Bethelmy, 9. Keyon Edwards, 13. Julian Wade (15. Aaron Lester 61st minute), 21. Densill Theobald, 27. Nathan Lewis, 28. Pernell Schultz (24. Conrod Smith 60th minute), 6. Marcus Armbrose


Unused substitutes—34. Kevin Graham (GK), 12. Kareem Joseph, 22. Jameel Neptune, 30. Akil Stafford


Coach—Jamaal Shabazz

Match Referee—Michael London