Trinidad and Tobago's senior men's team completed a 1-0 victory over Group 5 hosts St Kitts/Nevis, at Warner Park on Friday night, to book their passage to the semifinal round of the Caribbean Cup football tournament, in T&T next month.
A 50th minute goal by Defence Force winger Kevon Carter separated the two teams and pushed T&T to six points from their two games in the series so far.
T&T, with head coach Hutson Charles suspended for the game after being ejected in the 4-1 win over French Guiana, were stretched defensively right up to the final minute as St Kitts/Nevis pressed for the equalising goal.
T&T controlled proceedings in the first half, and should have scored at least two goals before the break.
Densill Theobald marshalled T&T's play from the midfield, but had to go off just before the break due to an ankle sprain. His replacement, Carter, shot home low from close range on an assist by Clyde Leon after he was put through by Jamal Gay.
French Guiana defeated Anguilla 4-1 in the earlier encounter.
T&T will aim for a third win today, against Anguilla, but even failing to do so, they are already guaranteed a semifinal spot.
In the first half on Friday, T&T defender Robert Primus, lurking near the penalty box, saw the ball fall perfectly for him, but he could only direct his effort over bar.
Theobald's absence put some strain on T&T in the second half as the team looked less organised, and at times too eager to simply get the ball away once St Kitts/Nevis found themselves around the T&T penalty box. Goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams was forced to make a good save, low down, in the 49th minute.
And one minute later, Carter netted the winner from close range after a nice piece of work by Leon, who slipped in behind two defenders after meeting Gay's pass.
The final 20 minutes were played under a brisk shower as St Kitts/Nevis pressed a T&T team that were found playing too deep.
Late in the game, Williams came up big with another fine save as T&T rallied out for the three points and a place in the next round, scheduled for T&T from November 14. Their semifinal group will also include Cuba, Suriname and the Group 2 runners-up.
After the win, assistant coach Derek King said he was satisfied with the team's effort.
"It was not the most impressive win, but the guys deserve full marks for effort and fight," King told TTFF Media Officer Shaun Fuentes. "We always knew St Kitts would make it difficult, but in saying that I thought we played too deep at times and we allowed them to believe they had a chance to get back in the game. We had some chances that in games like these you need to put away in order to ease the pressure and finish off teams."
Skipper Williams added: "The game turned out difficult but you could see the attitude of the guys in that they wanted to win it, and they pushed themselves to the limit. That's a good sign for any team that is rebuilding. These kind of games help to build character within a team and I was happy about that. This game was one to decide the group winners, and both teams wanted it on the night. Thankfully, we put in the effort and got through in the end. Now, it's about finishing on a high on Sunday, and going back home to prepare and continue our run in the competition."
T&T: 1. Jan Michael Williams, 17. Daneil Cyrus, 20. Seon Power, 5. Carlyle Mitchell, 12. Robert Primus, 2. Clyde Leon, 18. Densill Theobald (11. Kevon Carter, 43' replaced by 14. Willis Plaza 84'), 19. Keon Daniel (Curtis Gonzales, 82'), 7. Hughtun Hector, 15. Jamal Gay, 3. Joevin Jones.
Unused Subs: Marvin Phillip, Kareem Moses, Devorn Jorsling, Sylvester Teesdale