Angus Eve, in his first major coaching role in the local circuit, saw his players walk away with the $50,000 jackpot while Defence Force, who seemed to have the title sewn up before Navarro’s equaliser, were only able to collect $20,000 for their trials.
Glenton Wolfe put North East ahead in the 16th minute before Rodell Elcock’s pair of headers (58th and 85th) tilted the balance in Defence Force’s favour but, Navarro’s goal, like the previous three, resulted from a set-piece to send the game to penalties.
North East goalkeeper Cleon John, who clearly would have been a regular on the Trinidad and Tobago team but for the presence of current captain Jan-Michael Williams and Marvin Phillip, came up trumps when it mattered most.
Using a deliberate ploy to remain out of the penalty box until the penalty-taker was in position, John dived to his left to deny Elcock (the second kicker) and then to his right to block Aklie Edwards’ attempt to spark wild celebrations by his teammates and supporters.
Josimar Belgrave and Kerry Joseph converted their efforts, while all four takers for North East (stand-in captain Cornell Glen, Gary Glasgow, Kerry Baptiste and Elton John) were successful.
Both teams were missing a combined total of six players on national duties in the Caribbean Cup – centre-backs Kareem Moses and team captain Seon Power for North East while Defence Force were without regular starters Richard Roy (striker), Kevon Carter (midfielder), Curtis Gonzales (defensive midfielder) and forward Devorn Jorsling.
From their 4-1 penalty shootout victory over Stokely Vale, North East made five changes to their starting team, with Power, Kareem Young, Jeromie Williams, Jayson Joseph and Kaydion Gabriel replaced by Charles Pollard, Elton John, Kevon Villaroel, Elijah Manners and Kerry Baptiste while Roy, Carter and Gonzales’ places went to Jerwyn Balthazar, Ross Russell Jnr and Michael Edwards.
Belgrave got he ball rolling for Defence Force, drilling his 20-metre effort overbar, after a corner was partially cleared by the North East defence, but seconds later, Defence Force goalie Kevin Graham did well to deny Micah Lewis’ effort.
However, from the corner by Kennedy Hinkson, Defence Force could not clear the ball out of their area and Wolfe was on the spot to poke his left-footer home.
Cleon John was called into action to deny a powerful shot from Belgrave, and the midfielder also skied his long-range drive over the bar from distance.
Wolfe’s absence from the 52nd minute due to a hamstring injury affected North East’s balance and Elcock took advantage, rising above Manners to score off Corey Rivers’ in-swinging corner.
Defence Force benefitted from open spaces in the North East midfield area and had two crucial moments to go ahead – Jemel Sebro and Keston Williams failing to convert from close range, after right-sided balls from Kerry Joseph.
But Joseph, who came on for a disappointing Michael Edwards, sent a deep free-kick from the left and Elcock was perfectly placed to direct his header to the right of Cleon John.
Aklie Edwards, after a give-and-go with Sebro, could not keep down his left-footed drive and that miss was crucial when Hinkson’s free-kick caused mayhem in the box and Navarro nudged home his right-footer to spark off a pitch invasion by the substitutes and technical staff.
During the prize-giving ceremony, John was named as the Most Valuable Player ($1,500 prize), while Eve was adjudged as Coach of the Tournament and Jerrel Britto of 2011 champs W Connection took the Most Goals award (both collected $1,000 for their efforts).
NORTH EAST STARS: Cleon John; Charles Pollard, Glenton Wolfe (Jayson Joseph 52nd), Kevon Villaroel, Elton John; Keryn Navarro, Kennedy Hinkson, Elijah Manners (Gary Glasgow 89th), Micah Lewis (Kaydion Gabriel 68th), Kerry Baptiste; Cornell Glen (captain).
DEFENCE FORCE: Kevin Graham; Devin Jordan, Rodell Elcock, Aklie Edwards, Corey Rivers (captain); Keston Williams, Jerwyn Balthazar, Ross Russell jnr (Sean Narcis 63rd), Jemel Sebro, Josimar Belgrave; Michael Edwards (Kerry Joseph 59th).