Sports

Exciting RSPL playoff round kicks off today

...Arnett take on Cavalier, Mount Pleasant face UWI in double-header

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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THE much-anticipated Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) quarter-final playoffs kick off today with a mouth-watering first-leg double-header at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex as the University of the West Indies (UWI) battle Mount Pleasant at 5:00 pm before Arnett Gardens tackle Cavalier at 8:00 pm.

The four teams are battling for semi-final spots where they will be joined by the top two teams from the preliminary round - Portmore United and Waterhouse FC.

Based on results throughout the season, the promoted Mount Pleasant and Cavalier will start as favourites, having dominated their three-match series against today's opponents in the preliminary rounds.

Mount Pleasant, which was formed just three years ago, continued their meteoric rise and are genuine title contenders for Jamaica's top league after a solid debut season so far. In their three meetings with the UWI, they have won all three games. They won 1-0 on November 18, 2-0 on December 10 and 1-0 last Sunday.

They certainly have the psychological advantage heading into their fourth match-up although both coaches will play down its significance. However, the expensively assembled St Ann-based Mount Pleasant are given the nod to win the two-legged tie and advance to the semi-finals.

But UWI coach Andre Peart told the Jamaica Observer that his team is looking to do better than all of their performances against Mount Pleasant prior.

“The three defeats we can't change, but we can change our approach and attitude to this game. We have to stay focused as a team and try to deny Mount Pleasant scoring opportunities. Yes, they don't score a lot of goals, but they tend to when they get early goals to sit back and more counter-attack. We have to change that approach for them because we know that's their biggest strength,” he pointed out.

“Our form entering the play-off is not the best, but the guys have shown that they are ready and willing to do what it takes to get an advantageous position,” he added.

UWI will be without their influential playmaker Fabion McCarthy and goalkeeper Amal Knight, who are away on international duty with Jamaica. Mount Pleasant, meantime, will be without Ladale Richie for the same reason.

Meanwhile, despite getting the better of Arnett Gardens two of the three times this season, Cavalier will start as underdogs for more reasons than one. Firstly, the match is being played at the home ground of Arnett Gardens and secondly, Junglists are known to transform into the most deadly unit once play-offs are started. They have proved it more than once and have won the title following a relatively ordinary preliminary round.

Cavalier, on the other hand, will not be daunted and will make Arnett Gardens work over-time to stay alive whether they are playing at home or not. In their last encounter at the Complex, the visiting Cavalier ran out easy 3-1 winners and are favoured to beat them once again.

Rudolph Speid, the man charged with leading Cavalier back to the glory days of 1981, believes the organisers should have given the teams a break after completing the preliminary round, so teams could have more time to focus their preparation for the play-offs.

Notwithstanding, he enters the contest very confident.

“There is only one aim at this particular stage, but I know between us and Arnett it has always been fireworks. It will be one of those attacking games. We are going to attack, they are going to attack and the better team will win,” said Speid.

Meanwhile, with head coach Jerome Waite away with the Reggae Boyz in El Salvador, his assistant Eugene Williams has the task of leading Arnett Gardens into battle and he is confident they can get the better of a Cavalier team they have not beaten all season.

“It will be 180 minutes and tomorrow (today) is the first 90. So we want to start on the right foot with a positive result,” said Williams.


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