New Green tackle Hillstars in Major League final
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Even if no one close to the team will say the actual words, New Green, for more reasons than one, will start as huge favourites when they tackle Hillstars in the final of the Manchester Captain's Bakery Major League at Kirkvine Sports Club this evening.
Game time is 3:30 pm.
So dominant have they been this season, they have had to pinch themselves occasionally as a reminder that they were still in a competition.
At the half-way stage of the Major League New Green had swept aside all who came before them — winning the Brumalia House Knockout title and the mid-season final in the process — to hold a huge nine-point lead at the top of the table.
They also boasted the league's best defensive and goalscoring records, which made it a bit surprising when their coach Courtney Jackson, speaking to the Jamaica Observer after the mid-season final victory over Greenvale, noted that his team could be even more potent.
"Based on the quality players that I know we have, we should have been winning games more convincingly," Jackson had said. "Some of the victories were just too narrow."
What happened in subsequent games proved he might have been was right all along.
New Green went on to lose their unbeaten record, tasting defeat twice in the second round. But by the time those defeats blotted their report card they had already secured semi-final qualification.
They ended the preliminary round at the summit on 33 points, two better than Hillstars, who themselves had quite a decent season. In fact, Hillstars were the only team who, throughout the competition, looked potent enough to pose any serious threat to New Green's title ambitions.
Only one goal was recorded between the sides in their two previous meetings — in a 1-0 win for New Green. The other game ended goalless.
While Hillstars failed to score in two tries against New Green, they had no such problem in their other fixtures. They were the highest scoring team in the competition, netting two more than New Green's 35, and also had the second meanest defence.
But even at the semi-final stage they continued to be overshadowed by their more celebrated title rivals, as while New Green lashed Greenvale 4-1 to reach the championship decider, Hillstars had to settle for a mere 1-0 extra-time victory over Mile Gully.
However, the beauty and cruelty of a competition decided by a final, rather than a straight league format, dictates that Hillstars enter today's game on equal footing. One bad performance from New Green could mean their dominance over the course of the season was to no avail. That is why no one close to the team will actually say that they are "huge" favourites.
The pressure is really on them to live up to the expectation they have set for themselves. "We are the target," Jackson admitted back in February. "The other teams in the parish are improving — and everybody is coming to beat New Green — so we cannot afford to lose focus."