By Ian “Magic” Hughes
JOHN’S, Antigua (October 23, 2015) – Peter Byers is back on the Sap front line after missing last week’s 2-2 draw against Bullets having served a one-match suspension for a red card versus Old Road.
With back-to-back draws following opening wins against Parham and Fort Road, Byers is said to be extremely hungry for a victory for his team.
“Peter is very upset that we dropped four points in two matches,” said Sap’s coach Janiel Simon. “As captain, he is eager to get back on the pitch and lead this team to a championship.”
Asked if Byers is concerned that Parham’s Travaughn “Peter Redz” Harriette has moved ahead of him in the scoring column, Simon said an emphatic no.
“He (Byers) is set on winning a championship and he is more upset that we did not win those two games than he is concerned about his individual record. This demonstrates the type of leader Byers has become, and we welcome that at Sap,” Simon said.
In the first game on Sunday, Sap will take on Empire, a team that was humbled 4-1 by Hoppers in the Gray’s Green derby two weeks ago.
With a dramatic 2-1 win over Parham in week two after a disappointing loss in week one to Bullets, Empire needs to show some grit.
With just three goals in as many matches, Empire’s problems are obvious: tame up front and inconsistent in the back.
With Byers back and with the potency of the Sap attack, this may seem like a cake walk for the Bolans team, but not so fast.
Sap’s defence is porous at best, and if Empire catches fire, it can be danger for the Round South men.
This should be a good contest for both teams to assess exactly where they are in the competition.
“It’s a must win game for us,” Simon said. “Our objective is to win the title and although we are leading, teams are quickly catching up. We cannot afford to drop any points.”
PARHAM VS RANGERS
This may be the worst time for Rangers to engage Parham.
The defending champions are on a war path and are scoring goals at will.
Parham amassed 10 goals from the last two encounters and conceded just one, which came before Parham’s 10 in a row.
The team is fit and is playing well as was promised by coach Rolston “Debu” Williams, who is certain that his team has not reached its potential.
Harriette is on fire, with six of Parham’s 10 goals, and Ranjae Christian, the veteran utility players, is extremely mobile and playing intelligent football with Debu’s go ahead to roam the field.
Tevin Slater and Nazir McBernett have been good additions to Parham. Both have scored, with MeBernett getting double strikes against Grenades last week.
They are expected to leave for national duties after this week’s match and they will surely want to shine before they take their leave.
This is a tough one for Rangers.
But Rangers is a gritty team as demonstrated by their ability to keep their place in the premiership after last season.
Coach George “Cajawawa” Warner is not afraid of any team, and he will have his players as confident as necessary to go to battle.
GRENADES VS OLD ROAD
In the feature game on Sunday, it’s another Round South derby with Old Road coming up against Jennings Grenades.
Two weeks ago, Old Road escaped with a point against Sap but were inactive last week as torrential rains “washed out” all the games on Sunday.
A week ago, in one of two games played, Parham humiliated Grenades, who gave up four second-half goals.
If they are to bounce back, it must be against Old Road, a team, quite understandably beaming from the draw against Sap.
Stephan “Tommy” Smith and Kimoy Alexander are two real threats to any defence, and they are going to test Grenades all game long.
Derrick “Pretty Boy” Edwards, coach of Grenades, must have read the riot act to his players, most of whom are imported.
Edwards is a perfectionist and he must be reeling from the loss to Fort Road in week one and the humiliation by Parham last week.
This has to be redemption Sunday for Grenades, who will lose two starters after Sunday’s game, for three weeks, to national duty with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines national team.
HOPPERS MEET FORT ROAD
Today, the first game of the double header will see Hoppers taking on Fort Road in a game that may be difficult to predict.
Hoppers are as confident as any team in the competition following a decisive 4-1 win over archrivals Empire.
It followed a tough 2-2 draw against Five Islands in a game that Five Islands led two goals to nil.
There is a buzz at Hoppers with the news that national team captain Quinton Griffith has signed with the title hopefuls.
There are doubts that Griffith will play today, but the mere fact that he is waiting in the wings must be good news for coach Vaughn “Pop T” James.
The Hoppers faithful must also be salivating at the idea that their team can be strengthened.
Griffith’s addition will certainly allow Tamarly “Ziggy” Thomas much more roaming space up and down the sidelines where he is most effective.
But do not count out Fort Road.
This team, under the guidance of Schyan “Skemup” Jeffers, is one striker a way from being a serious threat to any team.
They shocked Grenades on opening day, and it took an extra-time goal for the very potent Sap offence to take maximum points from them.
Hoppers must be careful that they do not take Fort Road for granted.
Fort Road, like Rangers, find ways to disrupt offences and throw team’s strategies out of sorts.
FIVE ISLANDS VS BULLETS
The Five Islands/Bullets match-up will be an intriguing one in the feature game today.
Last week’s deluge kept Five Islands off the pitch, after they were hammered 6-1 by Parham a week earlier.
Perhaps the week off gave Five Islands, who are languishing at the bottom of the table, time to regroup.
Bullets, meanwhile, should have taken three points from the Byers-less Sap, but the Pigotts men must have been pleased to have come away with a huge point last week.
Bullets, with an offence that just keeps coming like the Energizer Bunny, may be confident that they can beat Five Islands.
The ARG should be packed and the fans will be entertained.