D-day for Arnett in return-leg Red Stripe Premier League semi-final against MoBay United
Champions vow to overturn deficit against confident MoBay United
Home advantage will mean everything to defending champions Arnett Gardens when they host Montego Bay United, the team they dethroned to take last season's title, in the Red Stripe Premier League second leg semi-final at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex for a place in the final. Game time is 6 p.m.
The defending champions looked anything but that when they faced Montego Bay United away in the first leg, as they were undone not only by one of their former players, Owayne 'Turtle' Gordon, but their own sloppiness in defending and their failure to find the back of the net. Today they will have to overturn a 1-2 scoreline.
"We let them off the hook, but despite that, our errors helped them win the game. That is behind us, though, and we are ready for today's game," said Arnett Gardens head coach Jerome Waite.
"We will be firing on all cylinders. We will be going for it. We are at home and will be using that to our advantage," added the man who returned the club to the winners' enclosure last season.
While Waite is very confident of a win, Montego Bay United are perhaps just as confident that they can hold on to their advantage.
"The first leg was good for us, but that is history now. Going to Arnett is going to be difficult, but we have the right frame of mind and know that we have a strong team.
"We are going there with a plan. We had a good week in training and we are all on one path," said assistant coach Dillon Thelwell, as head coach Paul 'Tegat' Davis, a man who had a stint at Arnett Gardens, was so focused, he passed on the interviews.
Unlike the past two seasons when Dino Williams was the man who came to life for Montego Bay United at this stage of the competition, the skilful player will be sitting out due to an injury.
Gordon, their most consistent player all season, will lead their charge and will get support from Ronaldo Rodney, speed merchant Allan Ottey, midfield workhorse Keneil Kirlew, and the veteran Dwayne Ambusley.
"We still have a strong unit. Only Cordel Simpson has a little niggle and we will assess him later today to see if he can go, but aside from that everybody is ready. But Dino is not a consideration as we will not risk him," Thelwell explained.
Waite said Arnett Gardens are at full strength now, with everyone in training. That could see goalkeeper Peter Harrison, the man many blamed for last week's loss - after he spilt a regulation catch that caused the second MoBay United goal - sitting out to make way for the fit-again Damion Hyatt.
"He contributed to it (the loss) but you cannot bash him. It was no one player's fault. It was a team performance," Waite said about Harrison, as he attempted to shield him from blame.
Hyatt, Waite said, was training, but he refused to say which of the goalkeepers would start.
Goalscoring has also been a recent problem for Arnett Gardens, as their leading scorer, Kemal Malcolm, has not looked like the same player who was on fire heading into the new year. That, though, is not a major worry for Waite.
"The aim of the game is to score goals and never focus on one player to get that done. We have to get other players involved and sharing in this responsibility. Our squad is strong enough where goals can come from anywhere and we are at full strength," he said.
Full strength for Arnett Gardens means that they will also have the option of choosing from captain Oneil Thompson, Dicoy Williams, Jabeur Johnson, and Ranique Anderson to make up their backline.
Vishinul Harris has been the best midfielder in local football all season and should be creating opportunities for Malcolm, Strickland, and company.
6 p.m. Arnett Gardens vs Montego Bay United at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex
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