Empire's Nekoda Carrington puts a hand up to keep goal-scorer Jelani Keizer of BDFSP off the ball in Tuesday's game.
After Crane and Equipment Ellerton were the first to secure their spot in the semifinals of the Williams Preseason Cup with a 4-3 win over previous Zone 2 leaders Porey Spring, the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme joined the St. George team in the safe zone as they marched to the top spot in Zone 3. Closing out their preliminary campaign with two wins and a draw for seven points, the soldiers wrapped things up on Tuesday night at Friendship.
Going up against Empire in the first game of the evening, three unanswered goals gave the Sports Programme just what they needed to stamp their dominance on the zone. Ending the night with a brace, Omani Leacock got his team on the boards in the 30th minute after comfortably converting a kick from the penalty spot.
After coming back from a 1-0 lead at the break, Leacock got his second in the 61st minute to see Empire sinking deeper into a slump. The final nail was driven into the coffin in the dying minutes of the exchange as Jelani Keizer got his first goal of the season in the 92nd to wrap things up.
The nightcap game saw Clayton's Kola Tonic Notre Dame doing just enough to finish second in the standings. After playing a second-string team for the entire tournament, the Dames coaches let the 'big dogs' out for their final prelim game. Still not doing enough to secure a spot in the semis, the likes of Zeco Edmee, Dwayne Mars, Tramane Cobham and Rickneco Marshall made their first appearances as the Dames rolled to a 3-1 win over Home Improvement Hardware Compton.
The score stood at 2-0 at half-time as Azarel Croney (32nd) and Mars (35th) both made good on shots against Compton keeper Antoni Hoyte. In the second half, Compton were able to pull one back as Marlon Headley put his team back within striking range in the 80th. However, the Dames thought their opponents were too close for comfort and Rakim Lashley made it 3-1 in the 92nd minute.
Zone 3 is now done and dusted as the BDF Sports Programme top the group with two wins and a draw. Taking their first win if the season, Notre Dame's even split of a win, a draw and a loss have them on four points in second place. Compton, sporting two losses and a win rack up just three points while Empire have the same but an inferior goal-difference.
All eyes turn to the final preliminary games in Zone 1 on Thursday at Market Hill. Brittons Hill and Abrahams United Silver Sands are the front-runners, both on four points from a win and a draw each. Brittons Hill have a date with the University of the West Indies Blackbirds (3) in the first game at 7:00 PM while Silver Sands are slated to take on Rendezvous (0) who have been in poor form this year at 9:00 PM.
Whatever happens in these two games will decide the other two spots the after a winner of the zone is decided, the door is still open for three other teams to book a berth as the best second-place finisher.