W Connection celebrated a fifth FA Trophy, reuniting with the title they last won in 2014 after defeating 10-men Police FC 3-1 last night at the Home of Football, Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva to bring down the curtain on the 2017 season for top-flight clubs.
Veteran midfielder Hughtun Hector scored late on either side of the break to finish with a double and the eventual MVP award after Suriname international Dimitri Apai opened the 2017 final scoring for coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier’s men.
“It’s a great feeling; a Christmas feeling, to come away champions,” said W Connection assistant coach Earl Jean after his team were crowned the $100,000 2017 FA Trophy champions.
He added, “I think the players have given us so much this season and we are just proud of them. We knew that it was a long time since we took the FA Trophy and we are just satisfied with the work the players have done especially in the last couple weeks.
“All credit to Police, they played well; they gave a good fight. But like I told them, when they cross the white lines that’s when the battle starts and our players were brilliant.”
Three-time former champions Police, desperate to lift their first piece of silverware in over two decades, started the brighter of the two sides.
But the Richard Hood coached-Lawmen were made to rue a missed chance by midfielder Kaashif Thomas who failed to direct his glancing header off a Clevon Mc Fee cross on target in the 21st minute moments after the latter had sent a powerful free kick just high of the target.
Connection later turned the game on its head when Apai turned in a Marcus Joseph corner past goalkeeper Adrian Foncette on 32 minutes.
Joseph had two attempts including an attempted lob on Foncette, who later had to do well to put behind a Briel Thomas header off a Hector free kick before Police defender Ryan O’Neil had to clear at the goalmouth from the resulting corner.
O’Neil made another clearance at the goalmouth for the Lawmen seconds into the second half but Hector had already cushioned the 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2013/14 champions on the stroke of half time by putting Alvin Jones’ cross over the line for a 2-0 lead.
Jones also got close to having his name on the scoresheet much earlier – the eighth minute – with a powerful shot from distance from a well-executed set piece involving a left side Hector free kick.
And Hector was inches off another item on the hour mark when he turned a brilliant Apai cross towards goal, only to see his attempt roll beyond Foncette’s upright.
Police head coach Richard Hood turned to talented attacking brothers Kareem and Jameel Perry off the bench but had mixed fortunes.
Forward Jameel – only seconds after replacing veteran midfielder Todd Ryan – sliced the Lawmen’s deficit in half with a blast past Archibald from the edge of the box to put the score at 1-2 in the 67th minute.
But less than ten minutes after restoring belief, the game fell further out of reach when earlier substitute Kareem was sent off when referee Crystal Sobers issued the attacking midfielder a direct red card following a dangerous challenge near the half line.
A later substitute Joshua Leach did bring Police supporters to their feet in a packed covered stand when he pulled off an acrobatic scissor kick towards goal in the 89th minute. The attempt, however, was brilliantly matched by Archibald.
Then, in the final minute of regular time, Hector, with his second goal of the night from close up, sealed the 3-1 Connection victory at the end of a counterattack by running onto a right side Neil Benjamin cross which beat the reach of Foncette.
“It is good to see that our players have sacrificed a lot and the rewards are here,” continued Connection assistant coach Jean whose side finished runners-up to North East Stars in the Pro League as well as finished First Citizens Cup champions.
Jean explained that the sacrifices included a very hectic scheduled that involved – at times – competing every other day.
“This is for our players to see that they can push to the next level,” said the ex-W Connection and St. Lucia forward.
That next level he said, is to return to Caribbean champions’ status then on to the CONCACAF Champions League when they join North East Stars next season in the CONCACAF Caribbean Qualifiers.
Jean also praised the work of countryman and head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, who also serves as assistant coach to the Trinidad and Tobago National Team.
“Coach (Charles-Fevrier) has done a wonderful job too,” said Jean. “He has been with the Trinidad and Tobago national team [but] has given us (Connection) his time even when he is away on international duty. He calls sometimes at 2am to see if everything is okay. The planning is here and you can see that the organization—though struggling financially—is maintaining what we do at Connection.
“It’s so good that our players can come away happy, going home for holidays with a comfortable victory. We are are really happy with what our players achieved. We want to also thank all the supporters who came out tonight because we are trying to [rebuild] our fan base,” he ended.
W Connection 3 (Dimitri Apai 32’, Hughtun Hector 45’, 90’) vs Police FC 1 (Jameel Perry 67’), at Ato Boldon Stadium.
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 3.Gerard Williams, 4.Maurice Ford, 5.Triston Hodge, 7.Neil Benjamin Jr., 10.Dimitri Apai, 13.Hughtun Hector (Capt.) (24.Jameel Antoine 94th minute), 16.Alvin Jones, 19.Briel Thomas, 23.Weslie John, 99.Marcus Joseph (11.Shirvone Malik St. Prix 85th minute).
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 33.Jason Belfon (GK); 14.Euller Silva Couto, 21.Ronell Paul, 26.Isaiah Garcia, 30.Shaquille John, 37.Cephas St. Rose.
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Police FC: 18.Adrian Foncette (GK) (Capt.); 3.Ryan O’Neil, 6.Jibri Mc David, 10.Kareem Freitas, 12.Nequan Caruth, 17.Dexter Alleyne, 20.Elijah Belgrave, 21.Todd Ryan (9.Jameel Perry 66th minute), 25.Kaashif Thomas, 29.Clevon Mc Fee (7.Kareem Perry 58th minute) (Red Card), 32.Keion Wilson (16.Joshua Leach 87th minute).
Unused substitutes: 22.Theon Browne (GK); 2.Jasimar Ashers, 4.Kadeem Boyce, 8.Kurdell Brathwaite, 13.Dillon Kirton, 23.Shakuille Williams.
Coach: Richard Hood
Referee: Crystal Sobers