Taking aim

Taking aim

Wary Boyz set sights on Antigua in Nations League contest

Friday, November 15, 2019

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LONG BAY, Antigua — The business at hand seems pretty straightforward irrespective of the point of view.

With their matchless performance in the Concacaf Nations League (CNL) B to date, today's Group C fixture against hosts Antigua and Barbuda should be a matter of mere formalities for Jamaica's Reggae Boyz in confirming promotion to CNL A and the 2021 Gold Cup.

In four matches, the Boyz have maximum 12 points, and have scored an impressive 18 goals with none against, which has set them apart from the competition, and firmly on course to achieve their goals.

By that alone, it is expected that nothing short of a victory in today's contest at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium will suffice, and in keeping with their classy rendition in the confederation's new national three-tier competition.

Match time is 7:00 pm (6:00 pm Jamaica time).

In their first meeting in Montego Bay in September, the 45th-ranked Jamaica put night and day between themselves and the Antiguans for a 6-0 whipping.

But for today's return fixture, Boyz Head Coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore is not expecting a walk in the park.

“Any team playing against us, as we saw when Aruba came to Jamaica, you will see no difference from Antigua as they will be coming at us, it's now for us to be prepared both mentally and physically going into the game.

“The fact of the matter is that the Antigua game is not going to be an easy one, and we know the Jamaica-Antigua rivalry, but once we can get a good performance from the boys, the result will come,” he told the Jamaica Observer after a spirited training session at the match venue yesterday.

Whitmore says while his team was a comfortable winner in Montego Bay in September, he anticipates a change in the dynamics of this evening's contest.

“The game we played against Antigua has nothing to do with tomorrow's (today's) matchup because it is a different ball game,” noted the former Jamaica captain.

Left-back Shaun Francis, set to start today's game against the 127th-ranked Antigua, says the game has taken on significant meaning with its high stakes nature.

“Our expectation for the Antigua is the same, which is business as usual… we have a couple of goals to accomplish, and one is to qualify for the Gold Cup and to make sure we gain promotion to League A of the Nations League. We also want to continue to score goals and to maintain our clean sheet.

“I expect the match tomorrow (today) to be tougher than the first match, knowing that they are at home as they will have their fans as a bonus, and despite we defeating them convincingly, I don't expect them to come and lie down and play dead, so we have to make sure from the beginning of the game we have to high-press them and to dictate the pace of the game and we should be victorious,” said the Louisville City FC player.

Completing Whitmore's starting side, in what appears a quirky 4-3-2-1 formation, are Amal Knight in goal, Damion Lowe and Adrian Mariappa in the centre of defence, with Alvas Powell playing right-back and Francis taking up the opposite side.

In midfield are Je-Vaughn Watson, Chavany Willis and Maalique Foster, while Ricardo Morris and Bobby Reid will operate in a withdrawn attacking role behind point man Shamar Nicholson.

In an early morning training exercise yesterday, Whitmore was pleased with the output of the players who were taken through an intense two-team scrimmage and set piece drills that were the centrEpiece of the session.

“We have had three training sessions, and the enthusiasm of the players yesterday was good, so we are very comfortable. We have a long day today (yesterday), and tomorrow we will do our normal exercises and look forward to the game,” he noted.

As it stands, Jamaica are followed in the standing by Guyana on six points, the same as third-place Antigua, while Aruba are at the bottom without a point and have been relegated to League C.

— Sean Williams

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