Thursday, April 15, 1999

Underdogs rule the roost


THERE were two major upsets in the south as Craven A Professional Football League action continued at three venues yesterday. At Petrotrin Fyzabad Sports Ground, Police, struggling near the bottom of the eight-team table with a single point from their three previous games, outgunned Defence Force 3-2. At Mahaica Oval, their fellow table-proppers Point Fortin Civic Centre earned their first points of the competition with a surprising 3-0 win over CL Financial Jabloteh.

At the Centre of Excellence, Joe Public and W Connection got first half goals from their skipper to be level at the interval. A power outage delayed the re-start while the emergency generators were pressed into service. But they too conked out after a while, delaying the game even further. When they eventually restarted, Atiba Charles put a header past Michael McComie in the Joe Public goal to give W Connection a welcome away win. Doc's Khelwalaas and Futgof were involved in the second game of the doubleheader after presstime.

Goals by Albert Charles (21st), Philbert Jones (75th) and Kevin Hernandez (88th) gave PFCC a shutout over a rejuvenated Jabloteh, who had bounced back with a 4-1 whipping of Doc's Khelwalaas on Sunday after a slow start to the season.

In Fyzabad, the Defence Force, who had not conceded a single goal all season, came out with guns blazing, confident of continuing their unbeaten run. But the men in the blue and white Police stripes came close to opening the scoring first when custodian Ross Russell had to parry a Kerry Franklyn's 20- metre Kerry Franklyn shot around the post for a corner.

The first half-hour belonged to the Defence Force, who watched by Brigadier Carl Alfonso, gave the impression that they would pull ahead. Police, however, despite starting the game at number seven on the eight-team table, were the first to hit the target.

Police midfielder Marlon Rojas, who consistently thwarted the Army forwards' attempts to progress, bolted out of the backfield to chest-trap a Defence Force pass and slot the ball through to Reginald Gibson streaming through the middle.

Gibson easily beat an airborne Russell to his left, and the upright was kind to the Police as the ball rebounded off it across the goalline. When the teams retired to the dressing rooms at the interval, that goal remained the only one separating them.

The Army were back on terms in the 59th minute through Granville Millington after a left-side build-up between Carlos Edwards and Bertram O'Brien. The ball was eventually played across the 18-metre box to Millington, who shot into the bottom left-hand corner of Ryan Edwards's net.

But two minutes later, Police took control again. A goalmouth scramble resulted in another Franklyn goal off the arm of an Army defender. But Franklyn was not yet through. In the 64th minute, he latched on to a through ball out of his defence. Pivoting, he attempted to strike the ball with his left foot, but he lost his balance and fell to the turf.

Surrounded by flat-footed Defence Force defenders Miles Henry, Hutson Charles and Carlos Edwards, Franklyn recovered quickly enough to let fly with his right boot. This time he made no mistake and made the score 3-1.

Police were suddenly looking like more than contenders. Their tackles were sure, defending solid, passes crisp and dribbling cheeky, but the Army had not yet lost the war. Captain Charles hit the post, Scotland shot wide, and second half substitute Errol Mc Farlane was stopped by young goalkeeper Edwards.

Bad decisions also plagued the men in gold and blue. Too often they went for the extra pass, making the goalscoring opportunity more difficult than necessary.

Still, it made for a frenetic last 10 minutes of action, and even the Brigadier was on the edge of his seat when sub Marlon Pierre made the score 3-2 with an 87th minute item.

Mc Farlane had the Army's last chance to steal at least one point when his injury time blast along the carpet whistled just wide of the Police upright. But when the final whistle went, it was Police who still had their noses in front, coming away with a hard-earned three points and a much needed confidence boost.