Hoppers poised to take title

Eugene Kirwan (right), formerly of Empire, celebrates with Tomarley Thomas (third from right), Keithj Kelly (left) and other Hoppers players after scoring one of four goals for the Greenbay team on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Orrin Steele)

Greenbay Hoppers, following a 4-1 rout of SAP football club on Sunday, could take only their second top flight title in over 30 years as the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association’s (ABFA) Premier League is set to enter an exciting final round of matches this week.

Hoppers had strikes from Keith Kelly in the 3rd minute, Eugene Kirwan in minute 38, Javorn Stevens in minute 54 and Tomarley Thomas in minute 80, recording their 10th victory in 17 showings and moving to the top of the 10-team standings with 34 points, two points ahead of Five Islands.

SAP only strike of the game came from forward Peter Byers in minute 46. The defeat leaves SAP dangling dangerously close to the playoff zone in seventh on 20 points.

Coach of the Hoppers team and former national player, Rolston Phoenix, said he is just as anxious as the players but must remain focused on the task at hand.

“I am nervous because I really want to win but I have to keep myself focused so I can keep the guys focused as well for the game ahead. The only thing I said to the guys is that we came here [ARG] to get three points and however we get it we are going to take it whether it is 1-0 or 2-1, we will just take it,” he said.

Should Five Islands win their next encounter against Grenades, Hoppers would need to beat rivals and defending champions Parham in order to lift the title. Should Five Islands lose or draw their fixture however, Hoppers would automatically be crowned champions.

Meanwhile, a rampant Tryum FC killed what little hope Grenades harboured of finishing in the top two when they recorded a 2-1 victory over the powerhouse team.

Jason Benjamin netted in minute 39 to put Tryum ahead going into the second half but a 74th minute conversion by substitute Theo Bowne evened things out for Grenades.

When it seemed as if Tryum would have to settle for just the solitary point, Omarie Daniel found the back of the net on minute 90 to take all three points for his team.

Coach Leon Moses Jr. said that the second round has been a dream for both the players and coaching staff.

“As soon as the season is finished we are going to put certain things in place and maybe next season we are going to challenge for the cup. I have to tip my hat off to the players too because without the players, we can’t make the team be what it’s supposed to be but the guys are more focused now and the guys are more jelled together and understand how each one plays,” the coach said.

Tryum moves to 26 points and fifth in the standings while Grenades are just slightly ahead owing only to a superior goal difference to that of Tryum.

In Sunday’s other contest, the already relegated Empire FC stunned defending champions Parham 2-1, ending their title defense hopes with one round of matches remaining.

Nigel Sanderson and Rakeem Joseph both netted once for Empire while Kenja Benjamin was the lone goal scorer for Parham.

President of the Empire FC, Veron Edwards Jr., welcomed the win, but he said that focus had long shifted to planning for next season.

“Our picture is bigger than just trying to win the premier league. Winning the premier league these days is getting a couple of thousand dollars and all your players are here and nothing is going on. We, over the last week or so, registered about five to 10 of our under-17 players and some of them would have featured yesterday [Sunday] and that is the scene we are focusing on along with a few other plans we have,” he said.

Empire moves to 11 points but remains at the bottom of the standings while Parham remains on 28 points and third in the standings.

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