JOE PUBLIC were on the verge of going out of the Toyota Classic at the first hurdle before staging a remarkable late recovery to see off Caledonia AIA/Fire on penalty kicks in their quarterfinal match on Friday night at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar.
The Eastern Lions were down a man after the sending off of Antiguan defender Dion Dublin, for receiving a second yellow card, and were also trailingCaledonia 1-0 since the 65th minute, when their Jamaican goal machine Roen Nelson struck to give them an 89th minute equaliser.
The champions of the semi-pro Sportworld National Super League then went on to beat the T&T Pro League team 4-3 on penalties.
Coach Michael McComie felt that his Joe Public team were superior and rightly won.
But he still cannot believe that Brazilian Leandro Moncao's earlier goal was not allowed to stand. It was one of two Joe Public goals disallowed on the night.
McComie felt that because Wolry Wolfe's shot came off a defender before Moncao tapped it in, the player should not have been called offside.
He thought that his Eastern Lions were far more fit than the Caledonia squad and that they had maintained much more possession that their opponents. He felt that his players were more than a match for their professional opponents, even after voluntarily leaving the pro ranks two years ago.
"I see Joe Public as a professional team regardless of where we play," McComie stressed and he feels that his team will again give a good showing in next Friday's semi-final against another T&T Pro League club, CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh, who were 1-0 winners over defending Pro League champs National Quarries North East Stars, who seem certain to lose their title.
Stars have also seen the recent departure of Guyanese coach Jimmy McLean and a few players as well. Joe Public are the only Super League team still in the Toyota Classic competition after popular Crab Connection went out by a 2-1 scoreline to the Defence Force.
Miguel Hackett, a former Defence Force midfielder and now coach of Crab Connection, said he had a bunch of very hurt footballers on his hands following the match.
"We score one, and throw away a million. We should not have lost that match. It was a good test and, though we were playing at a different level, we did well, but we did not take the many chances we had," said Hackett.
After their narrow victory, Defence Force must be shuddering at the thought of a semi-final meeting with Vibe CT105 W. Connection, who have beaten then a couple times this season by four-goal margins.
W. Connection were in a no-nonsense mood in their quarter-final match at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Friday.
Veteran St Lucia striker Earl Jean scored a hat-trick and Guyanese forward Randolph Jerome got the other in a 4-1 win over southerners United Petrotrin. The result left W.Connection owner David John-Williams feeling that this is their strongest team ever and the best since 2001.
W. Connection have already won the FCB Cup, were second in the T&T Pro Bowl, and have a seemingly unassailabe lead in the T&T Pro League and seem almost certain to land the 2005 title.