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Caledonia up against Stars for FA final spot
Defending champion Caledonia AIA and former winner North East Stars will square off for a spot in the final of the FA Trophy competition, when the two teams convene at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, from 6 pm, today.
The winner will come up against the newest addition to the league, Central FC, on a date and at a venue which is yet to be determined by the tournament organisers, the T&T Football Federation (TTFF).
Central, now coached by former San Juan Jabloteh coach Terry Fenwick, defeated T&TEC 1-0 last week in first semifinal.
The ‘Sharks’ probably had the easiest journey to the final, defeating Secondary Schools Football League’s (SSFL) Shiva Boys’ College 2-0 in the quarterfinal round, and cellar-positioned Digicel Pro League club T&TEC in the last-four stage.
Now two-time victor Caledonia AIA (2008 and 2011-12) and 2003 winners North East Stars, two popularly backed community clubs, are both confident of reaching a second final this season.
Caledonia successfully defended the First Citizens Cup (one of five titles won last year) with a 2-1 victory over Defence Force in the final last October, courtesy a pair of strikes from national attacker Jamal Gay and Guyanese winger Trayon Bobb.
And, last December, the Angus Eve-coached Stars defeated Defence Force 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw in the final of the Toyota Classic. Stars midfielder Keryn Navarro rescued his side by netting an injury-time item levelling the scores 2-2 following a double by Defence Force defender Rodell Elcock which overtook the Sangre Grande club’s opening item by Glenton Wolfe.
“I believe the confidence is on a high knowing that it’s a chance to win another trophy,” said North East Stars captain and goalie Cleon John.
John, who won the FA title in 2010-11 with Jabloteh added, “I believe we have a bunch of great players that can get us to the final. We (North East Stars) have a squad of 30 players and not just 22. During the tournament, the coach has rotated a lot of guys and whoever he selects is quite capable of doing well.”
North East Stars and Caledonia have met twice this season, with the Sangre Grande club registering a quite comfortable 3-1 win in Round One of the Digicel Pro League, but suffered a 1-0 defeat in Round Two.
“I’m not sure who they (Caledonia) are coming with (against us on Friday),” said John, “…but whatever players they choose, we are ready.
“I won’t say it would be tough for us, but I could say that they always give us a good fight. The first time we played them this season, we won 3-1, and in the second time they won 1-0 because of a mistake at the back.”
North East Stars is off a 2-1 win over Police last weekend in league action, while Caledonia suffered a 5-1 defeat against leader Defence Force.
“We are seeing it as a big game,” said experienced Caledonia right back Kareem Joseph, who is known for his admirable runs down the flank and goal-scoring ability.
“The main goal is reaching a final,” he added. “And, coming off a 5-1 defeat last weekend, we are eager to come out and rebound well.”
Caledonia remains without a total of nine players, all of whom are currently on trials.
Densill Theobald, Ataulla Guerra, Nuru Abdallah Muhammad, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Bobb and Walter Moore are all still in Turkey on a month-long combined trial, while Cornelius Stewart is in Finland, Conrod Smith at NASL club Atlanta Silverbacks in the US, and striker Gay only left T&T on Tuesday to join Belgium top division club KV Mechelen for a three-week trial.
Opponent North East Stars, meanwhile, remains without defender Seon Power, who is presently in Thailand on trial at Chainat FC.
“I think this is a great opportunity for other players to show that they deserve a starting spot,” explained Joseph. “This game is also an opportunity to show the depth in our squad and for players who weren’t starting earlier in the year to show their worth.”
The dependable Caledonia defender concluded by saying, “I’m not over confident and I’m not low in confidence, but I’m confident enough that our players, coaching staff and management can do enough so that we can come away with a good result on Thursday.”
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