Spotlight on Tivol, Cavalier showdown
All eyes will be focused on the Edward Seaga Complex this afternoon when the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) kicks off today with four matches - all scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Eyes will be trained there not because of the possibility of any off-field disturbances halting the game, but because of the importance of the clash between third-place Cavalier and fourth-place Tivoli Gardens.
Cavalier are currently enjoying a five-point lead over the home team but have played two games more. Two wins in those games, and similar results for both teams in successive games, could see Tivoli Gardens surpass Cavalier, but an off-field decision could change all of that if Harbour View are awarded the three points from their aborted game - one which they were leading 2-0 - against Tivoli Gardens. With that being the case, the battle for third place makes today's game even more critical.
"It is another important game. We defeated them in the first round, drew 1-1 in the second, and we are mindful of the fact that Cavalier are an improving team with quality players, but we are confident in our unit and what we can do," a confident Omar Edwards, coach of Tivoli Gardens, said of the game.
The fact that Tivoli Gardens will be playing without their captain, Romaine Brackenridge, and main forward, Jermaine Johnson, both of whom were ejected in last Wednesday's aborted game with Harbour View, is not a major worry for Edwards.
"We still have belief in each other and believe in teamwork, and that is key for us. My players understand the importance of getting the three points, especially playing at home," explained the man who has served as assistant coach for the national Under-17 team.
PLAYERS IN GOOD PLACE
"Playing without two key players will give other players the opportunity to step up. Other players have been waiting and they will grab the opportunity with both hands," added Edwards, who indicated that Wednesday's game is behind them and that his players are in a good place psychologically for today's game.
Like Edwards, Cavalier's Rudolph Speid does not believe the absence of the duo will negatively affect Tivoli Gardens.
"In the last match, they got two red cards against Harbour View, but I do not think these cards will affect them negatively. With Johnson in their team, he would have been the primary focus of their attack, which would have been easier to deal with, but now their attack will be more diverse. They have enough coverage defensively, so the loss of Brackenridge is not a major setback for them," Speid offered.
Cavalier will be without key players themselves and are sweating on the fitness of others. Olando Brown will be out with a fractured leg; the young giant Jahmoi Topey is in a race to be fit; while the Nicholas Hamilton and Alex Marshall have more hope of starting.
"I think we have been improving against them having lost the first and drawn the second, and, right now, I believe we are evenly matched," stated Speid, whose charges are led on the field by Chevone Marsh and include the talented youngsters Kaheem Parris, Nique Daley, and goalkeeper Jeadean White.
The biggest hurdle for his team, according to Speid, is home advantage.
"Tivoli Gardens, Arnett Gardens, and Waterhouse really know what home advantage means, and that is something we have to contend with and navigate successfully if we are to get the result we want.
"This is probably the game that decides who finishes third in the league. If we are able to win it, we could pick up an eight-point lead on them. If they win, they could significantly improve their chances for third as they have games in hand," he concluded.
At Barbican, the doomed Boys' Town host neighbours Arnett Gardens while fellow relegation-bound Sandals South Coast FC host Montego Bay United in Santa Cruz. Fifth-place UWI FC will host seventh-place Reno in another important game as any slip-up from the home team will benefit sixth-place Waterhouse, who play Harbour View tomorrow, and who are a mere two points behind with two games in hand.
- 3 p.m.: Boys' Town vs Arnett Gardens - Barbican Stadium
- 3 p.m.: Sandals South Coast vs Montego Bay United - STETHS
- 3 p.m.: Tivoli Gardens vs Cavalier - Edward Seaga Complex
- 3 p.m.: UWI FC vs Reno - UWI Bowl Mona
• 8:35 p.m.: Waterhouse vs Harbour View - Drewsland Stadium