A touch of class by defender Marvin Jones on Monday night at the Marvin Lee Stadium separated Defence Force from two-time defending First Citizens Cup champions, Caledonia AIA, with a 1-0 quarterfinal win.
In the earlier match of the quarterfinal double header at the Macoya venue, San Juan Jabloteh shrugged off St. Ann's Rangers 2-1, to also advance.
Shane Hospidales opened the scoring in the first half for the San Juan club, and Kerry Baptiste, who had the assist, doubled the advantage from the penalty spot in the second period.
Teammate Jamal Spencer was also on target, but in favour of the opponents, when his attempt to head clear a free-kick by Rangers' substitute Kareem Davidson, landed the ball into his own goal in added on time item.
The Keith Jeffrey coached-Jabloteh will meet Defence Force, which suffered a 2-1 defeat in last season's final against the Morvant/Laventille, from 6pm on Friday 4 October at the Ato Boldon Stadium in the semifinal round.
Two hours later, from 8pm at the Couva venue, semifinal two will feature a central derby when Central FC, 2-1 winners North East Stars last Friday, and DIRECTV W Connection, 6-5 penalty winners against Point Fortin Civic, clash.
“You would always feel good,” said Defence Force Head Coach Russ Russell over his team's qualification into the semifinal round. “...but I'd be a little more comfortable when we get past the semifinal round.
“We lost our first two games [this season], the (Digicel) Charity Shield (2-4 against Connection) and our first (Digicel Pro) League game (1-3 against Central), so it’s about getting to guys believing again.”
Caledonia, First Citizens Cup winners in 2011 and 20012, had two early opportunities against the soldiers on Monday, one of which came in the 8th minute, but winger Nathan Lewis' strike off a deflected Kithson Bain cross was saved by goalkeeper Kevin Graham.
Then Army custodian pulled off another save in the 14th minute to deny Caledonia midfielder Tyrone Charles.
On the opposite end Caledonia's Grenadian goalie Shemel Louison made a good stop against Richard Roy in the 27th minute when Josimar Belgrave headed back across the area.
And two minutes later Belgrave had a low effort himself and that too was kept out by Louison who keep a first half clean sheet.
But the Caledonia goalie conceded in the 54th minute when the Army right-back, Jones, popped up surprisingly inside the area to produce a neat flick off an Aklie Edwards left side cross to grab a 1-0 advantage, and the eventual match winner.
Russell said he felt “quite relieved” when his team scored.
“In the first half we played a lot of good football and didn't get the goal, but when you get a goal like that, it's a great feeling,” he added. “It was from an unusual player, 'Jonesy'. You know he is the right back and to see him up there flicking in one is a good feeling. And knowing he hasn't scored for a long while, you know it was going to be a winner.”
Caledonia's goal was under siege again on the hour mark when a curling Jemel Sebro effort from outside the area missed the target by inches.
And in the 71st minute Belgrave failed to get enough boot to a low Edwards' cross, affording Louison a simple take.
Belgrave later made full contact to the ball in the 91st minute with a powerful strike from outside the area, but the midfielder's effort clipped the outer-side of the upright and out for a Caledonia goal-kick.
Caledonia too, got a bite of the upright 11 minutes earlier when Lewis latched onto a long Keron Bethelmy ball, raced into the area and unleashed a powerful strike at goal.
Lewis was the Jamaal Shabazz-coached Caledonia's liveliest player on the night, out-shining teammate and striker Bain.
Bain a Grenadian international, nicknamed "Bully", and famed by his speed, ability to score, and stocky built was replaced injured in the 73rd minute after tangling with defender Rodell Elcock, in the follow up to an effort at goal.
Caledonia's second half introductions Keyon Edwards, Marcus Ambrose and Jamal Gay also failed to turn over the deficit.
Russell said that although he was happy for the win, it wasn't a revenge spirited performance by his team after losing last season's final to the Morvant/Laventille club.
“I go into every game as a new game. It's always been a good rivalry between Caledonia and us and that’s it.
“I thought Caledonia coming off the Concacaf Champions League would have been sharper than us. But today we worked hard and got the result that we wanted.”
Defence Force also welcomed back ace striker and last season’s top goalscorer, Devorn Jorsling, to the squad with a cameo in the last five minutes of regular time, plus the four minutes of added on time.
The 29 year-old returning to the team following an army promotional course towards the rank of lance corporal during the month of September, will receive his stripe during a graduate ceremony on October 1.
“He returned to the team on Sunday and trained with us a bit,” explained Russell. “We gave him the nod with his experience and I knew ten minutes won't hurt him physically or mentally. It was just to get him back in the feel of things and let him know we appreciate him coming back.”
Defence Force's semifinal opponent, Jabloteh, were close to opening the scoring in the 17th minute against Rangers when a play Baptiste forced a dangerous clearance by left-back Caleb Sturge inches wide of his own upright.
And in the 36th minute, Akim Ash, who had a curling effort over the Jabloteh goal in the 27th minute, deflected a Rennie Britto strike, out for a corner.
Kevon Piper, who provided Britto the pass in the earlier attempt, forced a low save out of Rangers’ goalie, Terrence Lewis, in the 40th minute.
Jabloteh then broke the deadlock two minutes from the break for a 1-0 advantage following a neat buildup—Britto to Dillon Kurton, who whipped in a cross which was headed down Baptiste—and Hospidales controlled before hitting past goalkeeper Lewis.
The San Juan club later celebrated a 2-0 cushion by the 70th minute when Baptiste converted from the spot after referee Gyasi Mc Donald awarded the penalty when an attempted Britto cross struck the arm of Ash inside the area.
Jabloteh had the back in the back of the net again in the 79th minute but substitute Anthony Guppy’s glancing header off a right side Shaquille Bertrand cross came from an offside position.
The pair combined again in the 80th minute, and Guppy’s strike off a low cross was comfortably taken by Lewis.
And eight minutes later Bertrand had a crack from distance hitting the base of the upright.
But Jabloteh gifted Rangers a goal in the 91st minute when a free-kick by Davidson, who had an earlier strike from distance, was floated into the area and defender Spencer headed back into his own net.
St. Ann's Rangers 1 - 2 San Juan Jabloteh
Jamal Spencer 91'(Own Goal) ; Shane Hospidales 43', Kerry Baptiste 70'(pen)
St. Ann's Rangers – 25. Terrence Lewis, 7. Clevon Mc Fee (C), 8. Joel Whiteman (Yellow Card) (12. Tevin Gilkes 54th), 9. Conrad Smith, 10. Kerron Cummings (14. Michael Yaw Darko 75th), 13. Caleb Sturge, 16. Kennedy Isles (Yellow Card), 18. Jemel Berot (Yellow Card) (6. Kareem Davidson 82nd), 19. Akim Ash, 20. Qian Grosvenor, 23. Dwane James.
Unused substitutes – 2. Marcus Roberts, 22. Kern Caesar .
Coach – Gilbert Bateau.
San Juan Jabloteh – 1. Keston Malchan (G), 10. Kerry Baptiste (C) (Yellow Card) (8. Anthony Guppy 78th), 18. Jevon Morris, 19. Dillon Kirton, 26. Keino Goodridge (Yellow Card), 3. Lekion Elie (14. Shaquille Bertrand 70th), 22. Shane Hospidales, 9. Jelani Felix, 12. Jamal Spencer 7. Rennie Britto, 20. Kevon Piper (16. Nyron Jones 70th).
Unused substitutes– 30. Jessie Peters (G), 25. Alfie James, 21. Lemuel Lyons, 17. Kerry Daniel.
Coach – Keith Jeffrey.
Match Referee – Gyasi Mc Donald.
Defence Force 1 - 0 Caledonia AIA
Marvin Jones 54'
Caledonia AIA – 1. Shemel Louison, 3. Nuru Abdullah Muhammad (C), 2. Aubrey David, 10. Kithson Bain (6. Marcus Ambrose 76th), 20. Noel Williams, 21. Densill Theobald, 16. Tyrone Charles (9. Keyon Edwards 46th), 27. Nathan Lewis, 25. Keron Bethelmy, 11. Abdallah Phillips (23. Jamal Gay 65th), 12. Kareem Joseph.
Unused Substitutes - 33. Glenroy Samuel (G), 7. Stephan David, 22. Miguel Alejandro Romeo, 24. Kevaughn Connell.
Coach – Jamaal Shabazz.
Defence Force—1. Kevin Graham, 14. Corey Rivers (C), 6. Rodell Elcock, 8. Curtis Gonzales, 10. Josimar Belgrave, 12. Jemel Sebro (Yellow Card), 13. Marvin Jones, 18. Sean Narcis (15. Jerwyn Balthazar 79th), 21. Aklie Edwards, 23. Kerry Joseph (17. Ross Russell Jr. 91st), 23. Richard Roy (9. Devorn Jorsling 85th).
Unused substitutes—25. Sheldon Clarke (G), 11. Kevon Carter, 65. Levi Serries.
Match Referee – Michael London.