Premier League a two-team race
Nodley Wright, Gleaner Writer
The battle for championship honours and survival will intensify today in the Digicel Premier League (DPL) as the fourth round of the competitions gets under way.
With just five games in this shortened round and the line between the safe top six and those battling to avoid the drop clearly established, hardly any team can afford to drop points but for those sitting easy in positions three to six.
Waterhouse on 50 points have a slim mathematical chance of overhauling the top two of Harbour View on 64 and Tivioli Gardens, their opponents today, on 63. For Waterhouse to achieve the near impossible, they would have to gain the maximum 15 points on offer and in addition to beating Tivoli Gardens and Harbour View, hope that both teams draw the match between them. Even with a result such as that, Waterhouse with a goal difference of plus one will have to experience a dramatic turnaround in goalscoring and defending form to wipe away Harbour View's plus 20 and Tivoli's goal difference. This effectively makes the DPL championship a virtual two-team race.
In the three encounters so far this season, Tivoli Gardens have won once while the other two were drawn. Coming off the back of a 0-1 loss to Portmore United last week, manager Brian Rose said they cannot afford any more slip-ups.
"Last week's result was very disappointing. It was a lacklustre performance and we acknowledged that," Rose said.
"This week, the emphasis at training was on correcting those errors. We know we have to get maximum points especially at home if we are to realise our dream of retaining the title," added Rose whose team will have to do without the injured Irvino English who previously played for Waterhouse.
While Harbour View are leading the League, today's opponents have beaten them twice this season and coach Donovan Hayles knows that a victory will not be easy for his team.
"We are looking at the occasion. It is the last five games and if we are going to win the competition as we have to get the three points because it is that close. We have lost twice to this team already this season, so they must be pretty confident coming up against us," reasoned Hayles who has lost key players Lovell Palmer and goalkeeper Dwayne Miller to the transfer market.
VILLAGE IN TOP SIX
Of all the teams in the top six, Village United must be sitting the prettiest as after languishing in the relegation zone for much of the season, they squeezed into the top six thanks the goalscoring form of Dino Williams who was signed in January, the consistency of captain Troy Smith with 11 goals and the return of Ryan Cooper who added stability to the defence.
Boys' Town and St Georges will be more concerned with increasing the prize money they could collect at the end of the season while looking to gradually introduce young talent into the team in preparation for next season.
At the bottom of the table, the situation is far more competitive and desperate with just three points separating the bottom six. Portmore United, who have experienced the most dramatic change of fortunes since last season, are the best placed among the relegation battlers with 38 points, one ahead of both Humble Lion and Rivoli United on 37 points. The once mighty Arnett Gardens are next on 36, just a point above the youthful Sporting Central and the promoted August Town who showed signs of life under Paul Young only to falter again after his departure.
At Ferdie Neita Park today, the home team Portmore United should have the better of August Town as they have been steadily climbing out of the relegation position with former August Town player Tremaine Stewart in particular repaying coach Neville Bell's faith in him. August Town cannot be totally ruled out with the likes of Daniel Shaw and Fabian Dawkins capable producing the goods.
Perhaps the most interesting matchup of the day, besides the Tivoli Gardens-Waterhouse clash, is the Rivoli United-Humble Lion game at the Spanish Prison's Oval. Crucial to this game is the absence of the competition's top scorer and the team brain Devon Hodges who picked up a red card in his team's 0-4 loss to Sporting Central last week. They will have to show great character to recover from that loss, especially without Hodges.
Humble Lion, on the other hand, have shown greater balance with the addition of goalkeeper Shawn Sawyers, forward Denzil Watson and the emergence of the hungry Kimroy Davis and the ever steady Ziecko Herrera. The Christopher Bender-coached team should have just enough to get the better of the Oneil Thomas-guided Rivoli United.
Portmore United vs August Town - 3:30 p.m. - Ferdie Neita Park
Sporting Central vs Arnett Gardens - 3:30 p.m. - Brancourt
Rivoli United vs Humble Lion - 4:00 p.m. - Prison Oval
Tivoli Gardens vs Waterhouse - 5:00 p.m. - Edward Seaga Complex
St Georges vs Boys' Town - 6:30 p.m. - Lynch Park
Harbour View vs Village United - 6:30 p.m. -