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Mon, Aug

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Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior footballers gave a sub-par performance in their 2-0 defeat to hosts Antigua/Barbuda and put themselves in what has of late become an all too familiar position of having to depend on final day results to stay alive in a competition.

The “Soca Warriors” will have to defeat Dominican Republic on Tuesday and hope for a Haiti win over the hosts in the second game of the double header for a clear-cut passage to the semi-finals and the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals.

The defeat broke T&T’s seven-match unbeaten run in the competition dating back to their opening 4-1 win over French Guiana in the qualifying first round in St Kitts/Nevis.

The current squad has been described by the coaches as the best possible one assembled under the circumstances of not having access to some of the overseas-based players such as Carlos Edwards, Khaleem Hyland, Kenwyne Jones and Darryl Roberts.

Never before in the Yorke/Latapy era and with the likes of David Nakhid, Jerren Nixon, Marvin Andrews, Anthony Rougier, Stern John and Ansil Elcock among  others in the mix, would T&T have been unsure of taking care of these types of opposition. Even with players who may not have been  categorized as the top guns from the “foreign base crew” from that generation, T&T would always stamp their authority against such opponents as St Vincent/Grenadines, St Kitts/Nevis and Antigua.

Times have changed as again in the past the odds would have been against T&T struggling for results against the likes of Antigua/Barbuda in such important competitive fixtures. Added to that, T&T now finds itself in an uncertain situation against a Dominican Republic team that have so far proven to be formidable opposition in the tournament .

That was then and now the current team captained by Jan Michael Williams with the experience of Densill Theobald, Seon Power, Devorn Jorsling and the talented Kevin Molino, Hughtun Hector and Ataullah Guerra alongside the rest of the 20-man squad must hold themselves accountable and do what is best for the country’s football which would be to produce their best performances for the remainder of the campaign and earn the right to be flaunted as highly as they believe they should be. It must be now rather than later as this cry is going on for far too long.

Sunday’s  match started slow on all accounts as Antigua were conservative, playing deep and allowing T&T time and space to settle and their 2,000 odd fans were not liking it. They were a far cry from the physical and fast team that was expected.

The first half overall seemed ideal for T&T to take the game to their opponents and seize the initiative. But that never happened, as the ‘Warriors’ failed to shift into higher gear and allowed Antigua to believe they were in with a chance to securing a result. The eight-time regional champions lacked the drive and ruthlessness in front of goal to kill off their opponents.

When the chances fell to Antigua, they showed how it should be done. Quinton Griffith sent a rocket into the net after the initial free kick was blocked by the defensive wall. The goal was reminiscent similar to the one scored by Ricky Shakes for Guyana last November and Grenada’s Kitson Bain in the 2010 Caribbean Cup Finals against T&T, the type of special goal that came unexpectedly.

Soon after that, T&T lost shape at the back and Randolph Burton missed from point blank range, hitting against the underside off the crossbar following a quick break by the Antiguans.

T&T had a good shout for a penalty ignored by Cuban referee David Betancourt when Molino went down inside the box. Hector also had a great opportunity on the right of the six yard in the 27th minute after being sent through by Molino but his effort was an awful one, going over bar. Guerra too had a good look at goal but his feeble attempt failed to trouble goalkeeper Molvin James after he made a good run skipping past two challenges. He would later have two similar attempts from decent positions around the box.

Striker Jamal Gay was used from the start but the service from either side just weren’t good enough on the day and he struggled to have any impact, eventually replaced in the second half.

With T&T now up against it and  pressing for an equalizer, Peter Byers, who played alongside and against most of the T&T line up in the T&T Pro League, sealed the win with a left footed finish in the 73rd minute.

The goal came after T&T gave up possession on their right side and the ball came back over the top of the box with Stefan Smith picking out Byers and before Aubrey David could put in a proper challenge, the ex-San Juan Jabloteh player drilled a right footer past Williams.

T&T still had just over fifteen minutes to find a goal or two but it wouldn’t come. Jorsling’s left footed shot crashed against the crossbar moments before Byers fired home. Lester Peltier was ruled out with a hamstring strain and when Richard Roy and Kevon Carter were introduced even they could not forage any real opportunities to prevent  T&T from going down.

It all comes down to Tuesday. A win or nothing against Dominican Republic from 5pm and then T&T’s fate lies with Haiti as a win over Antigua/Barbuda will secure T&T’s first Gold Cup qualification since 2007.

T&T line up 1.Jan-Michael Williams (capt); 17.Daneil Cyrus, 20.Seon Power, 5.Carlyle Mitchell, 2.Aubrey David; 18.Densill Theobald; 7.Hughtun Hector (13.Richard Roy, 79’), 10.Kevin Molino (11.Kevon Carter ,68’), 8.Ataullah Guerra, 3.Joevin Jones; 15.Jamal Gay, (9.Devorn Jorsling, 65’).

Subs that did not play – Marvin Phillip, Kareem Moses, Willis Plaza and Curtis Gonzales.