Relegation battle takes spotlight
Nodley Wright, Sunday Gleaner Writer
While leaders and favourites Portmore United could further strengthen their grip on the Red Stripe Premier League trophy with a win over relegation-rooted Village United today, the focus will on the battle for sixth position. All games start at 3:30 p.m.
In contention for the sixth place which will guarantee safety from the lower half of the table where the battle to avoid relegation will take place are Harbour View, Sporting Central, Arnett Gardens and Montego Bay United. Interestingly, all four teams will face each other and will be in a position to decide their own fate.
Of the four teams, Harbour View, currently in sixth position, are best placed and a win over Sporting Central would confirm their place. Harbour View, after being on standstill for a few weeks, got going on Wednesday with a good win over leaders Portmore United. Today, they should be favoured to beat Sporting Central as they have home advantage and the players like midfield maestro Jermaine Hue to take them over the line.
Sporting Central, despite the fact that they are playing away from home, cannot be ruled out as they have proved a resilient team under new coach Nigel Stewart. On Wednesday last, they pulled off an important win over the more-fancied Boys' Town and previously, and before losing away to Waterhouse, derailed Montego Bay United who looked as if they would sew up the sixth position.
Arnett Gardens have been up and down all season but have stabilised themselves a bit of late. Important wins over Harbour View and Reno have improved their chances of finishing in the top six, and victory for them today with anything less than that for Harbour View would secure their place. Coach Paul 'Tegat' Davis is confident that his team will get it right today.
"It is crucial not only for us but for three other teams. Harbour View, Sporting Central, Montego United and ourselves are all battling for that final spot but we are confident that we will do it," said former national striker Davis.
Davis' confidence is despite the fact that Arnett Gardens have finished second best in the two previous meetings between the teams.
"In the two games that we have played them so far they beat us 2-1 at home and 1-0 away, but we are confident that we can do it this time. The players are upbeat and really focused on doing well," Davis pointed out.
Arnett Gardens' chances will not be helped by the absence of their captain and most consistent player, Kirk Ramsay. As far as Davis is concerned, this should not affect them negatively as they registered a squad of 30 and he has confidence in every everyone.
In Ramsay's absence, Rohan Reid, Lamar Nelson, Marcelinho Blackburn and Newton Sterling will be their key players.
Team of the second round, Montego Bay United, have fallen off the pace in recent times and will need to turn their form around and get help from Sporting Central if they are to finish in the top half.
"The intention is always to go into every match to get three points, and today will be no different," said Orville Powell of Montego Bay United.
"We were in a position where we could have just depended on ourselves to finish in the top six, but now we have to depend on ourselves as well as others, which is not ideal but we are not worried, we will have to do what we have to do," he added.
Montego Bay's task of turning their form around will not be the easiest as they will be without a number of their key players.
"The truth is that we are seriously bothered by injuries to key players, especially our creative midfield players Olivier Trail and Leon Irving, who have both been out for a little while. Mauracio Gordon, our leading scorer, has also been injured but we are confident that we have what it takes," Powell explained.
But while those key players will be missed, Bahamian Leslie St Fleur, Allan Ottey, Troy Reid and company could rise to the occasion.
3:30 p.m: Village United vs Portmore United - Elliston Wakeland Centre
3:30 p.m: Sporting Central vs Harbour View -- Brancourt
3:30 p.m: Humble Lion vs Waterhouse - Effortville Community Centre
3:30 p.m: Highgate United vs Boys' Town - Lynch Park
3:30 p.m: Reno FC vs Tivoli Gardens - Frome Sports Complex
3:30 p.m: Arnett Gardens vs Montego Bay - Anthony Spaulding Complex