Nodley Wright, Sunday Gleaner Writer
"We enter the competition to win; we don't just come in here to stay or to be bridesmaids, but ultimately, we want to be the bride."
That was the bold statement from Dr Dean Weatherley, coach of Montego Bay United Football Club (MBUFC), ahead of their Red Stripe Premier League encounter today.
One of the hottest teams in the league at this time, MBUFC will play away to Arnett Gardens in one of five matches on today in the penultimate game of the second round, with the two spots up for grabs in the second end-of-round final.
The western Jamaica team is in pole position, with the increasingly consistent Cavalier and Waterhouse with realistic chances, while Arnett Gardens are not out of it, mathematically.
Despite the setup in the second round, Weatherley's focus is the bigger picture.
"We are not really focused on the end-of-round (final) as such, although it is our immediate short-term goal, but we are also looking at the big picture," said the man whose team created and missed numerous chances to beat Sporting Central 3-2 on the league's resumption from Christmas break last week.
Accumulation of points, he says, is the approach at this time.
"In a league format, you cannot give away points. It is a very important game, especially that Arnett are very close to us," he pointed out, with Arnett Gardens sitting just two points and a place below them, while Portmore United are above them on goal difference in second position.
Arnett Gardens have had a yo-yo season, but coach Calvin Lewis will be counting on all his powers of motivation to get them to rise to the occasion and keep their slim chance of making the end-of-round final a reality.
"We are optimistic about making the second end-of-round final and that is what we are playing for right now.
"Our objective is to reach the end-of-round final and also to accumulate enough points so that we can challenge for the title," stated Lewis.
Lewis, who led Portmore United to the title last season before switching to Highgate at the end of the season, knows that significant improvements will have to made for them to achieve their objectives.
"Playing at home, we need three points and we are definitely going out there on Sunday to get three points.
"Montego Bay is a very direct team. They throw everything upfront, so we have to be at our best defensively," Lewis said, stating the obvious.
For most of the season, Arnett have looked very porous defensively, with the defenders looking at sea on occasions and goalkeeper Damion Hyatt looking like someone in need of rest.
Arnett were active in the transfer window with defensive cover appearing to be their priority, with veteran goalkeeper Julian McLeish and defender Anthowe Dawkins, a key figure in Highgate's early-second-round resurgence, returning to the club. The experienced Desmond Breakenridge was also brought in.
Both McLeish and Breakenridge are on the downside of their careers and could be tested by the more youthful and hard-running Montego Bay outfit, while Dawkins did not have such a happy time in his previous stint at Arnett Gardens. Dino Williams, Lesley St Fleur, Allan Ottey, Leon Irving and company could spell trouble for any defensive unit.
On the other hand, Kirk Ramsay, Kemal Malcolm, Leon Strickland, Marcelino Blackburn, Ricardo Oldham and others will come up against a stronger Montego Bay United backline with the return of Cordel Simpson and Fabian McCarthy.
At Collie Smith Drive, Boys' Town should add to promoted Savannah's misery by handing them another loss, their 10th for the round and 16th overall, while Portmore United should be fancied to get the better of Highgate based on their improved performances.
Lenworth Hyde's task of leading his new team, Sporting Central Academy, to their first victory under his watch will not be an easy one when they host leaders Harbour View, one of the three teams he led to the Premier League title. Sporting Central's chances could be improved by the injury concerns to the trio of Jermaine Hue, Eric Vernan and Jermie Lynch. However, Harbour View will welcome the return of Joel Senior to their ranks and a motivated Romario Campbell.
Tivoli Gardens' state of crisis will suit Waterhouse, when they host the Glendon 'Admiral' Bailey-coached team. A win for Waterhouse will give them a shot at making it to the end-of-round final, while a win for Tivoli Gardens will ease the pressure on Bailey, whose team has lost three straight games in the Premiership.
3 p.m. Sporting Central vs Harbour View at Brancourt
3 p.m. Boys' Town vs Savannah at Collie Smith Complex
6 p.m. Waterhouse vs Tivoli Gardens at Drewsland Stadium
6 p.m. Arnett Gardens vs MBUFC at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex
7 p.m. Portmore United vs Highgate United at Ferdie Neita Park
9 p.m. Cavalier vs Humble Lion at Stadium East