PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):
Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones has likened today's CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Guyana to the historic Bahrain play-off six years ago, which T&T won to reach the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Back then, a second-half header from now retired defender Dennis Lawrence secured a 1-0 away win for T&T in Manama, and a 2-1 win on aggregate after the first-leg in Port-of-Spain had ended 1-1 four days earlier.
Now, six years later, T&T must avoid losing the first leg to Guyana if they are to keep alive their World Cup qualifying campaign.
"Against Guyana, it's going to be as big as when we faced Bahrain for me because it's a crunch match, and we need to go there and get a good result or else it will be the end for us," said the big Stoke City striker, who missed T&T's last two matches.
"We have two big matches and more so the first encounter on Friday, which we see as a must-win game. It's a pressure situation and it's something we as players have to deal with but we are all looking forward to it at the same time."
Guyana currently lead the four-team Group B standing with 10 points from four matches, one ahead of T&T.
Bermuda, third with four points, and Barbados, yet to score a point, are out of contention for a spot in the next round.
T&T will take heart from the fact they have played unbeaten in four previous matches since 1987 but are under no illusions about the difficulty of the task.
"I'm expecting Guyana to play hard, as they have been doing so far during the qualifying campaign, and come out and give us a stern test because just like us they want to get to the next round of qualification," Jones pointed out, following a two-hour training session here Tuesday.
"But at the same time, we know what the task is ahead and as a team we need to go and impose ourselves from very early and try and win the match."
The winner of the four-team group will advance to the third round of qualification which already involves big guns Mexico, Costa Rica and the second-round Group A winners, likely to be El Salvador.
Two teams will then qualify for the six-team CONCACAF Final Round qualifiers.
"It's been a steady process of progress as we have a good group of guys, and over the last couple matches some new faces have also been added to the team which is gelling well," said Jones.
"We had a great result in the last match with Barbados (4-0) and we want to push on and impose ourselves early."
T&T will host Guyana in the return leg next Tuesday.