Kerry Baptiste rolled back the years yesterday afternoon (Saturday) with a second-half double to give North East Stars a 2-1 win over MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers.
Baptiste had missed a first-half chance, but the 35-year-old 2009 Pro League Player of the Year and Golden Boot redeemed himself by scoring twice on the other side of the half to put North East Stars on course for a fourth straight win from as many matches this term, and they did it at no better place than in front of home fans at the Arima Velodrome.
The result put Derek King-coached Stars, with a game in hand against three-time holders Central FC, up one spot and level on 12 points with leaders W Connection, but second on goal-difference, while San Juan Jabloteh (10 points), who fell 3-1 against the Savonetta Boys on Friday night, slipped another spot into third.
Contrastingly, Rangers, suffering their fourth loss from five outings in the 2017 season, remained anchored at the bottom with just one point—the same as cellar-placed Point Fortin Civic, who must face Defence Force on Tuesday from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium, followed by Morvant Caledonia United against Central FC from 8pm.
King, who coached the now defunct Joe Public to a record five-title haul in back in 2009, reunited with his former star attacker, Baptiste, this season after taking over at North East Stars and owed a lot of Saturday’s win to the veteran poacher.
Yohance Marshall had a header cleared away on the goal line by Rangers attacker Anselm Jackson after the former LA Galaxy defender had made contact to a Leston Paul corner moments before the half.
However Baptiste, who holds the record for most PL goals scored in a season, broke the deadlock against Rangers in the 56th minute when he made connection to a free kick whipped into the area, and in the 64th minute cushioned his side from open play by beating goalkeeper Cleon John a second time.
Rangers then sliced the Stars’ lead in half a minute later through Josh Toussaint, who had the simple task of tapping into Akel Clarke’s goal on a squared pass by Jair Edwards following a neat move on the right.
But the St. Ann’s club couldn’t find the equalising item, let alone a comeback victory against a side that twice got within inches of scoring two more goals when Kevon Villaroel’s sizzling effort flew overbar on 70 minutes and when Leston Paul let another fly seven minutes from the end.
Rangers though, had made attempts on and off the pitch in Arima to excite the spectators, including a live closing-performance from Soca artiste Asten Issac.
Rangers will next face serial champions Central FC from 6pm on Friday at the Ato Boldon Stadium, followed by W Connection and North East Stars in a top-of-the-table clash from 8pm.
St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Josh Toussaint 65’) vs North East Stars 2 (Kerry Baptiste 56’, 64’), at Arima Velodrome.
St. Ann’s Rangers: 1.Cleon John (GK) (Capt.), 4.Shane Sandy, 6.Omari Lezama, 7.Sedale Mc Lean (33.Osaze Springer 70th minute), 9.Jair Edwards, 10.Josh Toussaint (32.Marvin Lee 87th minute), 12.Rennie Britto, 15.Keshawn Hutchinson, 16.Stephon Smith, 17.Hakim Baird, 19.Anselm Jackson.
Unused substitutes: 22.Christopher Biggette (GK), 3.Kareem Eastman, 8.Jordan Devonish, 20.Aquil Selby, 28.Shem Alexander.
Coach: Anthony Streete
North East Stars: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 3.Kevon Villaroel, 4.Kerry Baptiste (16.Giovanni Abraham 75th minute), 6.Leston Paul, 11.Rundell Winchester (8.Adrian Noel 84th minute), 12.Elton John (Capt.), 15.Seon Thomas, 17.Kordell Samuel (14.Jomoul Francois 55th minute), 20.Yohance Marshall, 22.Jameel Neptune, 23.Akeem Garcia.
Unused substitutes: 1.Jabari Bryce (GK), 13.Kyle Bartholomew, 19.Jelani Felix, 25.DeJon Waldropt.
Coach: Derek King
Referee: Crystal Sobers