Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
A keen battle is brewing in Group A of the ISSA/Gatorade/Digicel Manning Cup competition, as four teams are locked in a key tussle for the two automatic spots in the next round.
Excelsior and Penwood High will aim to seize sole leadership of the group when they clash this afternoon at Excelsior playing field with match time set for 3:30 p.m.
There is a three-way tie atop the five-team standings, with seven-time champions Excelsior, Penwood and three-time winners Norman Manley all having amassed six points. Excelsior have the edge with a goal difference of +12, with Norman Manley's goal difference being +6 and Penwood +5.
Greater Portmore are only two points adrift the leading pack on four, while the group's other team, Campion College, have one point.
Campion will entertain Norman Manley in the group's other game, also slated to kick off at 3:30 p.m.
"This is a must-win game because of how the group stands and we lost our last game," Excelsior's coach, Lebert Halliman, reasoned.
"My team is inconsistent, but hopefully they will come and produce their best game tomorrow, and we can get a victory and take it from there," he added.
Excelsior, which exited the competition at the second round last season, were clipped 1-0 by Greater Portmore in their last outing.
"We are not as strong as persons think because we have lost 10 players to other schools, so it is more of a rebuilding process," Halliman disclosed.
Brian Richards is currently Excelsior's leading goalscorer, having hit the net on six occasions.
Penwood on a high
Penwood, meanwhile, are coming off a 6-0 win over Campion.
Penwood have been making strides over the past three seasons and coach Rupert Nicholas has his sights set on topping the group, despite having also lost a number of players from last season.
"We have lost some of the players, so it is a young team. But we are working on topping the zone, no matter who we have," Nicholas said. "This game is very important to us because it is like everybody gone back on level footing again."
He added: "We are working hard on this one because we need to come away with even a point. We are coming with a good game plan, and if we come good tomorrow I think we will take it home."
Penwood's progression to the second round last season was built around a solid defence, but Nicholas is eager for the team to score with more regularity.
"We need some goals and we are working on that area hard, but we also don't want to concede any," Nicholas shared.
Penwood's quest for victory will be led by top scorer Romario Williams, who has five goals. He is expected to receive good support from Akeem Green and Clifford Shaw.
Campion vs Norman Manley
Excelsior vs Penwood
Innswood vs Haile Selassie
Tivoli vs Calabar
St Andrew College vs Donald Quarrie
Kingston Technical vs Oberlin
Meadowbrook vs Pembroke Hall
Kingston College vs Ardenne