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Rivaldo Coryat celebrates after scoring the game-winner against Club Sando at Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella on Saturday, March 9th 2024.
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There are very few times when Defence Force look like a team barely hanging on.

But so it turned out yesterday for the defending Trinidad and Tobago Premier Football League (TTPFL) Tier One champions. Scoring first, Defence Force defended Rivaldo Coryat’s first half item for a 1-0 win over Tiger Tanks Club Sando at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.

Victory saw the Army/Coast Guard unit move onto 26 points, up a spot to second, behind leaders AC Port of Spain (29 pts) who are on a bye, while last season’s third-place finishers Club Sando stay fifth.

Having lost two of their last three matches, Defence Force assistant coach Hutson Charles was in no way coy about how much they needed to win yesterday to keep their title hopes alive. So, too, Abdullah Phillips, assistant coach at “Sando”.

And the importance of getting three points seemed to have an effect on the teams, both preferring frenzied football rather that building progressively. Club Sando were better for much of it, until Defence Force finally got going in the final quarter-hour.

“As you see, we were under a lot of pressure and we needed that three points today,” stated Man of the Match and goal-scorer Coryat.

There was an early chance for Club Sando when, in the third minute, Jevon Thomas hit a low shot across the face of goal, following Nathan Quashie’s pass, but turned the ball wide.

Home team “Sando” had territorial advantage on a scorching day. But it also took a great effort from national goalie Denzil Smith to keep Defence Force from getting the opening goal on the half-hour mark. With the Army breaking quickly in transition, it took a full dive and a vital finger-tip save to keep Shaquille Bertrand’s low shot out—the ball headed to the far corner until Smith deflected the shot around the far post.

Recently, Defence Force have been doing without the regular strike pair of Reon Moore and Brent Sam, both having moved overseas, while Club Sando were minus injured main striker Nicholas Dillon. As indicated by Charles, in the absence of the regular strike pair the Army has been struggling a bit, but he expects them to recover soon.

“Reon and Sam are two big players. We are trying,” noted Charles, adding, “We have the guys here that will carry us forward. (It’s) a work in progress.”

Dillon’s absence at Club Sando has left the burden of scoring to Shaquille Holder, who met Shivonez Hamilton’s pass at the far post, but hit the post under pressure from another national goalkeeper, Christopher Biggette, in the 39th minute.

Coryat was far more efficient just two minutes later, when handing the Defence Force the lead, by roofing the ball. An errant Rhondel Gibson pass allowed Bertrand free passage up the flank and his cross picked out Coryat, who netted at the back post in the 41st minute.

Having soaked up much Club Sando pressure and a couple of good chances for recent national team call-up Hamilton, Defence Force introduced veteran midfielder Hasim Arcia and Nathaniel Garcia, and turned the match around late on. Suddenly, the Army were knotting some passes together, and deep in the second half Smith, the current T&T national team number one custodian, was called upon three times to keep the South team in the match.

One of those looked sure to yield a second goal, in the 76th minute, when Arcia found himself wide and rocketed a shot past Smith, only for the ball to bounce off the upright. Justin Sadoo also came on and was onto Arcia’s through ball, but his low shot failed to get past Smith. Later, Smith also scooped away Holder’s close-up shot, despite almost falling away at the time.

Assistant coach Charles seemed more relieved than thrilled at the final whistle with full points confirmed for Defence Force. “We lost our last game and we say that if we have to stay with the top, we had to get three points today, and the guys came out and I think they did well,” said Charles.

And in the end. Club Sando were left to rue chances missed from a game they should have gotten something from.

“The chances that we created in the first half, we didn’t put them away,” assistant coach Phillips lamented. “When you play teams like Defence Force, and you keep them in the game, this is the kind of results you will get. This is a tough one.”

UPCOMING TTPFL TIER 1 MATCHES:

(Today)

4.30 p.m. Terminix LH Rangers vs FC Phoenix, LA Horquetta Rec Grd, Phase 2

5 p.m. Caledonia FC vs Central FC, TBA

6 p.m. Heritage Petroleum Point Fortin Civic Eagles FC, Mahaica Sporting Complex

6 p.m. Prison Service FC vs Police FC, Arima Velodrome


SOURCE: T&T Express