Big clash in the Jungle
There will be no straightforward or easy matches in this week's Red Stripe Premier league fixture as all five games on today and the one on Monday night appear evenly matched.
Relegation-threatened Water-house gave an improved showing against Arnett Gardens and would have benefited from the inclusion of Hughan Gray and the reported signing of veteran goalscorer Devon Hodges. These moves could give them an edge against Boys' Town. Boys' Town, who have themselves beaten title challengers Portmore United 3-0 away from home, were last week spanked 3-0 by Cavalier in what can be described as a yo-yo league.
Former champions Reno no longer looked like the team that threatened in the early season to be pacesetters and now find themselves in the bottom half of the table in seventh place with only goal difference setting them apart from today's opponents, UWI FC. The university men, on the other hand, after struggling at the start of the competition, had some wondering if their entry was an experiment doomed to failure. They have gradually found their footing following their first win of the competition, a 1-0 win over fellow promoted but far more storied team Portmore United. Amal Knight's quality in goal was never in question, but with Girvon Brown running into form and the addition of a few players through the transfer window, they will look even more competitive.
Humble Lion were let off the hook by UWI FC last week as they held on for a draw. Today, they will have to put in an improved performance when they host Cavalier, who sent a message last week with a 3-0 win over Boys' Town with all three goals coming from their new acquisitions.
The most mouth-watering of all the matches, however, appears to be the matchup between defending champions Arnett Gardens and the team they dethroned and defeated in last year's final, Montego Bay United. Montego Bay United currently top the league on goal difference over Portmore United with their 37 points. That is just two points more than third-placed Arnett Gardens, who can overtake them with a victory.
"These clashes are always some of the big clashes of the season. They are a rounded team, scoring a lot of goals and also defend well, so they will not be easy. Our game in round one ended 2-2, so we are not far apart," Jerome Waite, coach of Arnett Gardens said as he looked ahead to today's game.
His team, he believes, though, have the ammunition and are in the form to come out on top.
"Defensively, we are getting stronger and have improved on last year. We have been giving less goals, and when you make a comparison to last year you will see. At the end of the first round last season, we gave up 17 goals. Now, we have conceded just 15 with eight games gone in the second round," Waite explained, adding that captain and defensive enforcer O'Neil Thompson and Keneil Hyde will return to strengthen the backline.
On the offensive end, Waite believes they are just as good.
"We are scoring a number of goals and Kemal Malcolm, with 10, is our leading scorer and we still have a lot of games to play. Last year, our leading scorer was Leon Strickland with 11. Strickland has provided goals too and we have players contributing from all around, with Vishinul Harris scoring quite a few from midfield," Waite gushed.
Montego Bay United could be without the League's top scorer Dino Williams, who is due to depart the island shortly to take up another professional contract. That, though, is not a worry for club president Orville Powell.
"Tomorrow's game should be a competitive one, but we have no fear as we have been playing good football, and outside of Dino, who may not be available, all of our other players are fit and ready," Powell told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Owayne Gordon has scored a few goals for us as well and he is ready. Ottey is fit again after dealing with some injury issues, so we are covered on the attacking end. There are also others like the experienced Dwayne Ambusley, young Woozencroft and, of course, goalkeeper Jacomena Barrett is in good form, so I am confident that the team will put in a good show," Powell added.
- 6 p.m: Arnett Gardens vs Montego Bay United - Anthony Spaulding Complex
- 3 p.m: Boys' Town vs Waterhouse - Barbican Stadium
- 3 p.m: Humble Lion vs Cavalier - Effortville Community Centre
- 3 p.m: Reno vs UWI FC - Frome Complex
- 3 p.m: Tivoli Gardens vs Rivoli United - Edward Seaga Complex
- 8:40 p.m: Harbour View vs Portmore United - Harbour View Stadium.