Sporting relish Tivoli challenge
Richard Bryan, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Two matches into the start of the third round, a matchup between Tivoli Gardens and Sporting Central Academy would hardly have attracted interest beyond the distinct predictability of the latter collecting three points - almost always the final outcome when the two have met over the last four seasons.
It may not be that simple this time around when the two are featured in the Monday night live fixture at Edward Seaga Sports Complex. Tivoli are the champions and have a six-point lead on Sporting Central.
But this is not the Tivoli of the two previous rounds. The tide is changing against even their own ambitious hopes of defending their title even with nine games left. Their 44 points is only good enough for fourth place, a mere one ahead of Humble Lion ... and are not likely to frighten anyone as suggested by their 0-0 effort against relegation candidate Village United last weekend.
Sporting may well not give Tivoli's coaching staff any sleepless nights before tomorrow, but it is unlikely they would want to take their visit lightly.
Following a forgettable second round in which they mined just nine points in 11 games, Sporting fired their coach, while four of their local Clarendon stars transferred to other teams.
With a seemingly weakened line-up and assistant coach Nigel Stewart thrust into the waters mid-stream, Sporting have unbelievably rose from gloom and with that not only show signs of resurgence but confidence.
With less of their spectacular trademark passing, they have demonstrated discipline and fight and have since stitched a purple patch which has seen them unbeaten in five games, mining 11 points from three wins and two draws. Two of those wins have come against teams higher ranked at this stage, but Tivoli would be the biggest catch if this form were to continue.
Coach Nigel Stewart has been an integral part of that climb and it made more than passing interest when Courtney Murray, who replaced his brother Brandon as manager when the new changes were made at the start of the round, walked to the sidelines to give him a personal handshake just seconds after the 1-0 win over MoBay United last Sunday.
Stewart exuded confidence when asked about the upcoming game against Tivoli.
"It's a big game for us, but we have some momentum and should go there with some confidence," Stewart said, when asked about his date with the defending champions.
"It's up to the guys to just go out there and produce the good work they have been doing."
Among those who have lifted the team are main striker François Swaby, midfielder Jamoly Powell who provided the winner against MoBay with a wonder strike and super sub Keith Kelly, who usually spices up the attack from midfield.