The Imobile & Observer Group Premier Division resumed on Saturday at the ARG after a short break which saw the Antigua & Barbuda National team through to the semis of the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers.
Antigua & Barbuda beat Haiti 1-0 at home at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium 11th November before an insignificant 1-2 defeat in Port Au Prince four days later.
The restart of the Premiership could not be scripted any better.
Fans were treated to a shoot out between Sugar Ridge Sap and Special Security Services All Saints United in game one of the double header.
Sap prevailed to win 4-3 over title contenders United in a game dominated by cautions including three ejections, one on the side of United early in the game.
Playing at the Antigua Recreation Grounds for the first time this season (the previous matches were played at the Sticky Wicket) Sap took an early lead and never looked back.
Sap led 3-0 by halftime.
In the third minute United’s starting keeper Glenroy Samuel received his walking ticket as he impeded the progress of Rackley “Leech” Thomas on route to an open goal after beating all defenders.
Sap capitalized on the advantage a strike by Thomas from the penalty spot on the said infringement before Kerry Aaron and Odel Murray tripled the lead before the break.
Thomas though had to leave the game with a broken arm before United got on the score sheet.
Aaron struck five minutes from the half while Murray, prior to being red carded late in the game, hit home on the brink of intermission.
United came alive in the second half and seemed destined to overcome the deficit but was unable to do so as Sap sustained the pressure to grab maximum points.
Eleven minutes after the break Lamar Hodges pulled a goal back before Murray and Lawson Limerick were sent off for violent conduct.
Now, with a man advantage United pressed for more and got another goal via a Randolph “Etty” Burton strike in the 77th minute.
Sap was not done however and Steven Roberts increased Sap’s lead once more with a nifty strike three minutes after Burton hit home.
Three minutes from time Conroy Hall scored again for United and Sap did well to stave off United’s challenge to hold on for the victory.
“This team held its composure and I am very proud of the guys,” said Coach Charles “Charlie” Weston of Sap.
Weston added that the time off for the national team world cup quest was good for Sap.
“We took the time off to gel,” Weston said.
“Prior to this game we heard so much chat from the opposition but we did not allow that to bother us because we knew that we were well prepared for the match.”
In the second game, Bassa outlasted Cool & Smooth Empire, to win 2-1 demonstrating that losing most of its starters from a season ago is not all gloom and doom.
As a matter of fact coach Schyan “Skemup” Jeffers is confident that this team has the ability to win the premier division title despite more immediate concerns.
“We have the ability, but that is not our focus at this time,” said Jeffers.
“We are a young team and we have to concentrate on playing our game.
“There are still a lot of matches left in the season and we cannot lose sight of what we need to do each week.”
Bassa has fielded a relatively new or ‘rookie’ team but they have played some of the finest football in the league thus far.
Roger “First” Hurste got Bassa off to a quick start with the opening strike in the first minute of play, slotting home from the edge of the six on the team’s initial offensive drive.
Albert “Tungee” Barthley drew Empire level seven minutes later with a vicious strike from the edge of the 18 following a melee in front of the Bassa goal.
Hurst was not done though and one minute before the break the speedy striker scored the game winner.
Former national team striker Lennox “Fox” Julian had a good game on the frontline for Bassa before he was substituted late in the second half.
“His (Fox) is not 100 per cent fit but he continues to show his leadership on this young team, which is a valuable asset for us,” Jeffers stated adding that Julian is also very helpful off the pitch as well.
It was Julian’s strong play that helped with both goals.
On Sunday, there was more excitement at the ARG as newly promoted Willikies came from a goal down to beat defending champions Asot’s Arcade Parham.
Hero of the National team Kerry “Arab” Skepple, whose name has, being inked into the history books with the lone goal that propelled Antigua & Barbuda into the FIFA qualifying semis was hounded all night by the Willikies defense.
There were no heroics for the nifty striker on Sunday.
Parham had to depend on 10 men against 11 for most of the game as national midfielder was sent off for violent conduct in the 27th minute.
Despite the shortage Parham fended off a pesky Willikies offence for the first session.
Three minutes of the intermission it was Parham who took the lead with a Ricky Charles ‘rocket’ on the edge of the 18 and Parham looked on their way to victory.
Not so though as Willikies held its composure and chipped away at the Parham defense with some intensive offensive pressure.
Stafan Roberts tied the game in the 52nd minute before Winston “Sprocket” Roberts clinched it for Willikies seven minutes from time.
Earlier on Sunday, Lime Old Road, the team that knocked off Parham in the season opener got a scare from another newly promoted team, Bullets.
Old Road came from a game down to win 2-1 after Auckland “Pinup” Jarvis did what the Haiti strikers could not do against keeper Molvin James at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Jarvis hammered a powerful lefty-booter past James to give the Pigotts men the lead 10 minutes after the scoreless first half.
Three minutes later Imran Roberts pulled Old Road level then Tiran Williams finished off the P- men, ending their hopes of an upset win over the title contenders.