Nodley Wright, Sunday Gleaner Writer
With today's resumption of the 2012/2013 Red Stripe Premier League following the Christmas break, the challenge facing most coaches is to have their players return focused and match fit to renew the charge.
Traditionally, most teams struggle during this time and blame the players' sluggish performance on their consumption of too much sorrel, cake and pudding which is sometimes laden with alcohol. One man who believes he does not have that to worry about is Montego Bay United's Dr Dean Weatherly, whose team will be involved in one of five matches on today. Kick-off time is 6:30 p.m. In a curtain-raiser at 3 p.m., a St James Women's Invitational team will face the touring Dollard Women's team from Montreal, Canada.
"The past two weeks, especially the last one, were used to get the players refocused on the goals ahead. These are getting sole possession of second place and getting into end-of-round final in the short term. That is where our heads are right now," a relaxed but focused Dr Weatherly said ahead of today's game against Sporting Central.
United on a high
Before the break, Montego Bay United were on a high as they beat the marauding Waterhouse away from home and handed them their first loss of the second round. Playing on their home turf they should be fancied to get the better of Sporting Central, a team that has been struggling since the second half of the first round.
Besides playing at home Montego Bay United's chances are also boosted by the return of leading scorer Lesley St Fleur to play alongside Dino Williams and the much-improved Allan Ottey.
"Tomorrow's game is a very important one for the season. We want to win the first game of the year and of course there are two more after that to complete the round and if we win all of them we should be in the end-of-round final.
"We have most of our players back with the exception of Olivier Trail who has left for Wadadah but Leon Irving has come in. Defensively, we should be without Cordel Simpson who is suspended and Fabian McCarthy who is suffering from an injury," Weatherly stated yesterday.
The absence of the two defenders, he said, will not be a worry as they have a squad of 26.
Lenworth Hyde Snr, the only coach to win the Premier League with three different teams, has been handed the task of saving Sporting Central's season after his separation from neighbours Humble Lion.
"It is great. I am used to those players we had a lot of them in the national Under-20 when I was there with (Donovan) Duckie," said Hyde, making reference to the team's leading scorer Levaughn Williams, Christopher Banner and Kadian Wynter.
Going to be tough
The three sessions that he has managed with the team since starting on Wednesday have been good, said Hyde who admitted that today's match will be a tough one.
"It is going to be tough. Montego Bay United are playing good football, scoring goals and winning matches and they are playing at home.
"The truth though is that I don't think Sporting Central should be in ninth position. We have too much quality for that so we have to get them back on track and that is what we have set out to do," Hyde said of his team that is in ninth position in both the overall table and the second-round table. Interestingly, Humble Lion, Hyde's former team, sits immediately below on both tables.
Hyde's task today will not be made any easier by the absence of both Banner and Wynter who are both injured but the return of Keith Kelly and Francois Swaby should help.
Coach Geoffrey Maxwell who has yet to taste defeat since taking over from Hyde at Humble Lion will look for another positive result when they host defending champions Portmore United. A win for the visitors would see them cut into Harbour View's seven-point lead at least until Monday when the runaway leaders host Waterhouse in the Monday night classic.
In the only match to be played in the corporate area today, eighth-place Tivoli Gardens will host the battling seventh-place Cavalier in a game that will see Mitchily Waul return to the ground on which he scored freely for the opponents last season.
The battling Highgate will continue their fight against relegation when they host the vulnerable Boys' Town at Drax Hall while Savannah will seek to shake the tag of relegation certainty if they manage to get a win over the fifth-place Arnett Gardens.
3:00 p.m: Highgate United vs Boys' Town - Drax Hall Sports Complex
3:00 p.m: Humble Lion vs Portmore United - Effortville Community Centre
6:30 p.m: Montego Bay United vs Sporting Central - Catherine Hall Complex
3:00 p.m: Savannah vs Arnett Gardens - Frome Sports Complex
5:00 p.m: Tivoli Gardens vs Cavalier - Edward Seaga Complex
9:00 p.m: Harbour View vs Waterhouse - Harbour View Stadium
Teams P W D L GF GA GD Pts