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Firehouse, Snappers clash tonight

Randy Bennett

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There are sure to be loads of fireworks when pre-tournament favourites Phoenix Firehouse take on the highly rated Red Snappers in today’s feature match of the LIME Pelican Football Challenge at Kensington Oval.
Having failed to live up to last year’s high expectations after falling to eventual winners Bajan Pride in the semi-finals, Firehouse will be looking to open their campaign on a winning note against their much fancied opponents.
They will once again be led by former Barbados captain and key midfielder Norman Forde, along with veteran striker Paul “Soup” Lovell, Ricky Barnes and Vincentian national player Oscar Nero.
Along with new signings in teenaged striker Shaquille Stewart, defender Rohan Hall and goalkeeper Saheka “Rossi” Duke, Firehouse will also benefit from the arrival of last year’s winning coach Eric Alleyne, who has crossed he field from Bajan Pride.
However, they will be without two key players in national custodian Jason Boxhill and defender Barry Skeete, who have both joined Bajan Elite.
It won’t be an easy task by any means as they come up against a Red Snappers side that is loaded with talent. Kenroy Skinner could prove to be a thorn in the side of Firehouse defenders, especially as he and new acquisition Shandel Samuel will make a dangerous attacking pair. Samuel, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ national captain and marksman, is probably their biggest pick of the draft.
With the dependable Jeffrey Williams and Donovan Lavine in midfield, Jason Carter marshalling the defence and the highly rated Bentley Springer between the uprights, Red Snappers are among the teams favoured to walk away with the first prize of $100 000.
Last year’s losing finalists 360 Connection will also take to the field for the first time when they come up against Sportstown Galaxy, first-timers to the competition, in the opening game at 5 p.m.
360 Connection boast one of the best ’keepers on the island in Kerry Holder, who won the award for Best Goalkeeper at last year’s inaugural competition. They have been bolstered by the inclusion of midfielder Malcolm “Buju” Marshall and striker Kyle Gibson, who was named Player Of The Year in 2010.
The match is expected to be a tough baptism for a Galaxy team that comprises players mainly from the north of the island.
They do have two experienced strikers in Maradona Lavine and Angus Doyle, but with a mostly unproven core they will struggle against proven opponents who know what it takes to win.
Top Bay Settlers and Red Tridents will clash in the evening’s second game at 7 p.m., with both teams expected to be among those challenging for a final four spot.
With Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge, Kent Hall, Dwayne Skinner and former national custodian Bernard Howell in the mix, along with new players in Barbados Under-20 captain Ricardio Morris and strikers Henderson Richards and Ryan Lucas, Top Bay Settlers boast a solid and impressive squad.
Having drafted versatile midfielder Kadeem “Buju” Atkins and roving midfielder Curtis Odle, Red Tridents – last year’s third-placed team – should not be underestimated.