Photo: Arnett Gardens head coach Jerome Waite has seen his team get off to a good start in the Red Stripe Premier League as they attempt to defend the title they won last season.
Defending champions Arnett Gardens leads the Red Stripe Premier League at the end of the first of three rounds of the competition and remains the only unbeaten team in the competition. They boast a record of six wins and five draws and also have the best scoring record of 21 goals scored whilst tallying 23 points from 11 games.
The five draws however means that Arnett have not been able to shake off rivals and last season's losing finalists. Portmore United who are two points behind on 21. Portmore has drawn two fewer games than Arnett but have also lost two compared to Arnett's zero losses. Unlike last season when they bounced from venue to venue, Portmore has found a home at the Spanish Town Prison Oval which has no doubt added to the solid start to the season.
The UWI FC who are only in their third season in the league are in third position in the standings, one spot above Tivoli Gardens who they lead on goal difference. The Mona based team has benefitted from good off season transfers, especially Ryan Miller who leads the goalscoring charts with six goals. The 19 points is their best return after the first round and provides the perfect platform for the Marcel Gayle coached outfit to push on through the rest of the season.
The form of Tivoli Gardens over the last five games is comparable with the leaders Arnett Gardens. After a poor start to the season, due largely in part to not having their grounds available to train, the West Kingston based team has hit a rich vein of form, scoring three wins and two draws to soar into the top half of the tables. They are currently in fourth on 19 points, the same as the UWI with whom they drew at the Edward Seaga Sports Complex on Wednesday.
FC Reno just missed out on a playoff spot last season and currently sit fifth in the league on 18 points, just one behind the teams in third and fourth places. They have won five but have lost as many as they have drawn. Craig Foster is the joint leading scorer in the league with 6 and it was his stoppage time goal against Sandals South Coast FC in the Westmoreland Derby that elevated the team into fifth.
Cavalier SC who returned to the RSPL after a year's absence occupies what is the last playoff spot as they sit in sixth place. Things could have been at least one place and two points better for them had they not let a two goal lead slip against leaders Arnett Gardens on midweek. However, with four wins and four draws after 11 games Rudolph Speid must be happy with how his team has fared so far this season.
Harbour View were sitting pretty in the top half of the table just a few days ago, but three losses on the trot has seen them slip out of the top six to now occupy seventh place in what is going to be a long and competitive season. Their last win came away to the UWI and it seemed that they were poised for a run at the leaders but things have taken a turn for the worst and must be of concern for head coach Ricardo "Bibi" Gardner. Their 13 points from three wins, four draws and four losses is not what they would have been expecting after 11 games.
Montego Bay United's indifferent start to the season was not made any better by the weather in midweek. Heavy rains led to severe flooding in the second city and ultimately a postponement of their game with Humble Lion. Mobay have only 12 points from ten games and with losses (4) more than wins (3) they will not be happy with what has taken place so far. The second round cannot come too soon for the former champions who must be looking forward to putting a solid run together.
Humble Lion is a team with title ambitions but with just two wins from 10 games for their measly nine points, they are way off the pace at the end of the first round. They have contested the semifinals of the competition for the last three years and have stated publicly that they are in pursuit of the title. The woeful early season form however has been completely inadequate but head coach Lenny Hyde enjoys the support of club Chairman Mike Henry who is looking for the experienced campaigner to dig the Clarendon based club out the hole they currently find themselves in.
Waterhouse FC find themselves at the wrong end of the table for a third season in a row. They are the first club to experience a change in coaches this season after Donovan Duckie replaced Glendon "Admiral" Bailey who resigned earlier this month. Nine points from eleven games is hardly what the club could have been looking for after brining in sixteen new players in the offseason. The Drewsland based club has stuttered along, bouncing around the foot of the table since September and will be desperate for Duckie to turn their fortunes around. In his three games at the helm so far, the returning coach has garnered two points from two draws after losing the first one.
Boys Town FC find themselves in a very familiar position at the bottom of the RSPL. They are in 11th position, one above the newcomers and cellar dwellers Sandals FC. A solitary win and 4 draws has seen them eek out 7 points from 11 games to be in an all too familiar situation. With only six goals scored to date, Shamar Nicholson who is on contract in Europe, is proving to be a bigger miss than was anticipated. Andrew Price will need someone else to take on the goalscoring responsibility and fast. The transfer window cannot come too fast for the Red Brigade.
It has been a baptism of fire for Sandals South Coast who are playing in the RSPL for the first time. They prop up the table with 6 points and have won just once, against the team one place above them. Aaron Lawrence has already acknowledged that he must go into the transfer market to sure up his team, but while they wait on the window to open there are still games left to be played and won. Confidence will not be high at a club desperately in need of some inspiration and someone from with the current squad needs to step up and provide the leadership necessary on the field to ensure they do not get cut adrift early in the next round.
Round two begins today with Sandals hosting Boys Town in what will be a key match for both teams. Also on show are: Humble Lion v FC Reno; Waterhouse v UWI; Harbour View v Arnett Gardens and Montego Bay United v Tivoli Gardens.