Two-time defending champions Central FC wants to stay perfect after Tuesday’s hard-fought 2-1 win over Couva rivals W Connection at the start of their 2016/17 Digicel Pro League campaign.
Leston Paul grabbed the Central winner at the death in stoppage-time after Connection’s Grenada international and substitute forward Jamal Charles’ late strike had nullified the Couva Sharks’ first half lead through midfielder and captain Darren Mitchell.
“It was an all-round team effort – everyone did their part,” said Paul, who preferred not to shoulder the full credit after scoring the winner. “We needed to start well because we want to retain our title.”
Central are next against Club Sando from 5pm on Friday at the Mahaica Oval followed by home side Point Fortin Civic against Ma Pau Stars from 7:30pm.
“It’s very important that we also get full points against Club Sando in our next game,” continued the Central FC midfielder. “It won’t be an easier game against Sando. We are treating every game as a final with the season shorter—just two rounds. So for any team, once you get a good start you can go on to win the league.”
Like Sando, Civic and Ma Pau are all hoping to rebound from opening defeats to their 2016/17 league campaign.
Sando were edged 1-0 by last season’s runners-up San Juan Jabloteh, who will host Defence Force from 6pm on Sunday at the Barataria Recreation Ground following a 4pm kick off between St. Ann’s Rangers and Morvant Caledonia United at the same venue.
Rangers and Morvant Caledonia are both coming off opening wins against Defence Force, 2-0, and Civic, 3-1, respectively.
Meanwhile Ma Pau, although boasting a star-studded roster inclusive of Jason Scotland and Carlos Edwards, suffered the heaviest defeat of the opening slate of matches, falling 5-1 to Police FC after opening the scoring.
Todd Ryan scored a brace for the Lawmen and Jameel Perry, Christon Thomas and substitute Keion Wilson each had a goal for Police, who will next tackle W Connection from 6pm on Tuesday at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
“It was a fantastic result… fantastic performance by our players,” said Police FC head coach Richard Hood. “It was more than I expected because we are never one hundred percent sure of what we are going to get from your players. North East Stars were a good team attacking team on the night but they were susceptible on the counter attacks.
“We have the capability of being champions. This is something we have always been saying to our players. It’s just for our players to realise this and have the belief.”
Hood, though, is bracing for a tougher challenge against Connection—a side he has never defeated since taking over as Police coach.
“Connection are always a difficult team and we have never beaten them since I am coach [of Police],” added Hood, now in his fifth season as coach of the Lawmen. “We will try and improve on the good things such as our mobility and surprise [showing] by Perry and Kareem Freitas who I thought was outstanding. But we are also mindful that we have to correct some things at the back.”
With this season shorted to just two rounds—between September 2016 and February 2017—to facilitate reverting to the old April to December format in 2017, Leston Paul believes the race for the 2016/17 will be tougher.
“Every team would come out to play [harder] this season because of the fact that it is a shorter season,” said the Central FC player and former Trinidad and Tobago Youth World Cup captain. “Every team knows once you get a good start you can go on to win the league. No team can be underestimated this season. We saw Police beat Ma Pau 5-1 and Rangers surprising with a win against Defence Force in their first game.”
Upcoming Digicel Pro League fixtures
Round One Match Day Two
Friday October 7, 2016
Mahaica Oval, Point Fortin
Central FC vs Club Sando—5pm
Point Fortin Civic vs Ma Pau Stars—7:30pm
Sunday October 9, 2016
Barataria Recreation Ground
St. Ann's Rangers vs Morvant Caledonia United—4pm
San Juan Jabloteh vs Defence Force—6pm
Tuesday October 11, 2016
Ato Boldon Stadium
W Connection vs Police FC—6pm