Hoppers Hold On To Top Spot, Swetes Get Crucial Win

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Former champions Greenbay Hoppers, with just five rounds of matches left in the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) Premier Division, etched out a hard fought 2-1 victory over relegation threatened Pigotts Bullets on Sunday, opening up a slim but welcomed two-point lead at the top of the 10-team standings.
In a match crucial to both teams, one vying for only their second title in over 30 years and the other seeking to stave off demotion, Bullets drew first blood when, on the stroke of halftime, Cowin Mathurin pushed home from close range.
Celebrations would however turn to dismay 11 minutes after the break when an own-goal by Akeem Christian drew Hoppers level on minute 56.
One would have thought that the tides would have Hopper, Swetes swung in Bullets’ favour when Hoppers were reduced to 10 men in minute 76 after midfielder Akeem Grant was driven off by referee Curtis Charles, but it was not meant to be their day as Bernardo Milford would score the winner just three minutes from time.
Hoppers move to 28 points at the top, two points clear of Grenades.
Coach of the Hoppers team, Rolston Phoenix, said his only worry is that players could become complacent at this crucial stage.
“We can’t get complacent now, can’t just say we are at the top and people believe the season is done and we stop training, so everything we did when we started, we need to keep doing that. We can’t stop doing what we use to do in terms of still coming to training, be punctual and things like that,” he said.
Phoenix, a former national and Hoppers midfielder, said he anticipates the race to the finish will be a close and exciting one.
“At first I was thinking that the pre-season was a hard task because we have a bunch of young players, but now that it’s coming down to the end of the season and we can win the championship along with Parham, Jennings [Grenades] who all have a chance and Five Islands can win the championship. It’s really competitive, really hard now,” the coach said.
Bullets remain in the two-team relegation zone with just 10 points from their 14 matches. They are two points clear of Empire at the bottom of the standings with eight points.
In another telling encounter on Sunday, Swetes FC grabbed a crucial 5-2 victory over SAP when they clash in the day’s second match.
T’noy Andrew led the newcomers with a hattrick, scoring in minutes 29, 65 and 80 while Kenduka Challenger and Gason Gregory had goals in minute six and 60 to lift Swetes to 17 points and sixth in the standings.
SAP had goals from Trevor Tongue in minute 51 and Kemar Headley in minute 77 as they fell to their fourth loss in 14 outings.
In Sunday’s feature showdown, Rashard Jules scored twice as former champions Old Road came from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw with defending champions Parham.
Goals from Nazir McBurnette in minute 34 and Nazron Hoyte in minute 39, saw Parham leading the contest 2-0 with just six minutes left in the first half.
Jules would however put his team within one in minute 43 before securing a point for the Old Road men in minute 58.
Parham slip to fourth in the standings with 25 points, three points off leaders Hoppers while Old Road move to 13 points but still occupy the lone playoff spot in the number eight position. They are four points behind of Tryum who have 17.
The teams finishing ninth and tenth will automatically be demoted to the First Division while the eighth place team will have to contest a three-team playoff with the third and fourth place finishers in the First Division. The winners of the playoffs would secure a place in the top flight.

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