Sun | Sep 24, 2017

All or nothing! Junglists hunt 5th title while Portmore seek redemption

Published:Monday | June 5, 2017 | 6:00 AMNodley Wright
Portmore United's Maalique Foster (left) puts Fabian Reid of Arnett Gardens under pressure during a Red Stripe Premier League match in Spanish Town earlier this season.
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Jerome Waite's background in athletics has always benefited him in football, not just in getting his players fit, but having them peak at the right time. This season's Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) is the perfect example of that.

The three-time winner of the country's top football title will be looking for his fourth title and the club's fifth when they go up against last season's beaten finalist, Portmore United, at the National Stadium at 8:30 this evening.

"We have beaten the defending champions (Montego Bay United) and followed that up by defeating the number-one team (Humble Lion), so it shows where we are and there has been no falling off in terms of intensity," a confident Waite, who last lead his team to victory in 2015, told The Gleaner.

Consistent with Arnett Gardens' rise at the business end of the season was the return of Vishinul Harris and a decision to play Fabian Reid as a central striker.

'Reid played a number of positions, and heading into the play-offs we did not have anyone playing with consistency in front of goal and we put him there and it paid off. This is not a gamble that was taken. For Harris, it was about reintroducing him at the right time," Waite explained.

Both players, along with captain O'Neil 'Bigga' Thompson, the rejuvenated Marvin Morgan, Renae Lloyd and Keneil Hyde will be crucial to Arnett Gardens' hopes of victory.

Linval Dixon's Portmore United have always looked at this season as one in which they have to get it right. Last season, they lost 2-1 in the final to Montego Bay United, and that has served as a big motivator to the players.

"They know that for them to be on top, they have to improve day by day, and they don't want to settle to be good players. They want to be the best, so they push each other, and they respond well to work," Dixon said about his players ahead of this evening's final.

ANXIOUS TO BE BACK

He added: "They are excited and they are anxious to be back at the final. Losing to Montego Bay United in the final and to be back here is really a good job from the players. But we haven't played the final as yet, so we still have to be grounded. We still have to be focused and be ready to play."

Among the players who were smarting from last year's loss is midfielder and big-occasion-man Michael Binns who promised something special for the final after his wonder free kick cemented the extra-time 2-0 win over UWI FC in the second-leg semi-final to advance to tonight's showpiece.

Captain Ewan Grandison, Ricardo Morris and goalkeeper Shaven-Sean Paul will also be important for them.