Grudge match! - Coach urges 'focus' as Humble Lion psyche up for Portmore United
Fans crying out for excitement in the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) will have it all today when title aspirants Humble Lion hosts former champions Portmore United in a first-leg semi-final at the Effortville Community Centre in Clarendon. Game time is 3:30 p.m.
This 'Clarendon derby' will feature a number of former teammates at the schoolboy and club levels going against each other and should have fireworks aplenty. Perhaps the only drawback could be the capacity of the venue.
Despite the above and the fact that there is a place in the RSPL final on offer, what perhaps will be most on the minds of the fans is whether the 'vexed' Humble Lion will have the chance to right what they believe was a wrong.
Portmore United, the team many love to hate, were beaten 3-1 in their third encounter of the season with Humble Lion, but had the win erased when they protested the use of an ineligible player. The competition's committee ruled against Humble Lion and awarded Portmore United three points and a 3-0 win.
That result almost derailed Humble Lion's season as they fell from fourth spot a position which had been their preserve for most of the season and one which would have guaranteed them a spot in the semi-final and fell to sixth.
Those three points also enabled Portmore United to top the table on points, as they finished one ahead of defending champions Arnett Gardens and collected the bounty of one million dollars.
"Obviously, the issue will be on the minds of all concerned, but we intend not to make it a distraction," Vassell Reynolds, coach of Humble Lion, said of the impact the ruling will have on his players.
"I have asked my team not to focus on that issue, but to focus on the game itself and what winning these two games will mean to us," added the man who led Wolmer's Boys' to a schoolboy football title this season.
While stating that he asked his players to put the past in a certain 'space', Reynolds confessed that in their matches leading up to this one, that disappointment was a major motivator.
"Getting to this stage, we used this incident to motivate us. For about a round and a half, we were in fourth spot, but wouldn't get any further. Since we lost the points in the boardroom, our only blemish in terms of dropped points was a 0-1 loss to Arnett Gardens. We pledged to fight to get back in," Reynolds explained.
Portmore United's Geoffrey Hewitt acknowledged that the results and points reversal could play a part in the temperature of the match.
"It is something that we are totally cognisant of, but this is a semi-final. It is a big game and several things can motivate us to perform. We are confident in our ability to win and we are motivated to do so," said Hewitt, a very successful coach at the schoolboy level, in particular at Garvey Maceo.
Not one to say a lot, Hewitt would only add that they are driven by ambition.
"Our ambition drives us. That is our driving force. We are determined to succeed and we believe that we have what it takes to be champions, and Humble Lion is our first hurdle to the championship," Hewitt said.
Talent is something Portmore United have in abundance. Besides the steady Ewan Grandison, there is the duo of Ricardo Morris and Tramaine Stewart, who can decide a game on their own. Javon East is another player who comes to mind and, if fully fit, could cause problems. Defensively, they are also sound with the vertically-challenged, but commanding Damano Salmon, Ryan Wellington and possibly Uptsan Edwards.
Humble Lion are themselves not humble in the talent department and should have at their disposal the on-form Levaughn Williams, Ricardo Cousins, Jermaine Christian, Wolry and Kemeel Wolfe and the fit-again Francois Swaby, who could come off the bench.
The other semi-final, between Arnett Gardens and Montego Bay United, who finished third, will be played tomorrow at Catherine Hall Complex in Montego Bay.
- 3:30 p.m. Humble Lion FC vs Portmore United FC at Effortville Community Centre
- 8:40 p.m. Montego Bay United vs Arnett Gardens at Catherine Hall Complex