Sporting U-21s take control of Clarendon Major League
CLARENDON, Jamaica — It's still not exactly clear if they can be legitimate winners of the competition, but for now Sporting Central Academy Under-21 outfit won't mind. They are having a field day in the Clarendon Captain's Bakery Major League.
Twenty-nine points from 11 games mean they sit at the top of the 12-team league with a four-point cushion at the half-way stage.
Coached by Lennon High's bright young tactician Merron Gordon, Sporting have so far been ruthless on their quest for championship glory, with their only blemish being two drawn games.
Sporting, along with their Humble Lion counterparts, are playing as guest teams in the parish league due to the cancellation of this season's JFF/PLCA U-21 competition.
"Initially," said Gordon, "it was a little bit difficult to motivate the players, seen that this wasn't the competition we were preparing for. But it has so far proven to be very good practice for the youngsters because most of them, being schoolboys, wouldn't have made the Premier League team. It's better for them to be playing some kind of organised football than nothing at all.
"Because we are able to use three over-age players, it has also been very helpful to the senior team. Players coming off injuries have used it to get some match fitness. And the league," he added, "hasn't necessarily been a walkover for us, either. A lot of the games have been close, so we have had to work hard for the results."
Sporting's closest rivals thus far are Jamalco (25 points), who are waiting ominously to take advantage of any slips.
Jamalco, who have suffered two defeats — including a 6-1 thrashing at home to Sporting — so far in the campaign, boast the most prolific attack (31 goals for) and it is, therefore, no surprise that they have the competition's leading goalscorer, Clovell Dinnal (six goals) in their ranks.
The south-east Clarendon side, coached by veteran youth coach Jackie Walters, will now look to avenge their early-season defeat to Sporting when they clash in Saturday's Mid-Season Final at their Wembley home ground in Hayes.
Though still keeping pace with the front-runners, surprisingly, the Humble Lion U-21 team (18) are having an indifferent season. The central Clarendon outfit slipped to fourth in the standings following shock back-to-back 2-1 defeats (their third overall) in their last two outings.
Humble Lion were joined on 18 points by surprise package Comfort, who are so far having a decent debut season. Fellow newcomers Summerfield (two points above the relegation zone) are, however, struggling to adjust to life in the parish's top football competition following their flawless title-winning season in Division One.
Two former champions — Monymusk (13) and New Bowens (12) — are also having uncharacteristically poor seasons and will need drastic improvements in the second half of the competition if they are to mount any kind of challenge for the title.
Meanwhile, at the foot of the table, Milk River (two) and Rock River (10) are the early candidates to face relegation.