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Last quarters look tight

Ezra Stuart

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Whichever way you look at it, tonight’s last two quarter-finals in the LIME Pelican Football Challenge at Kensington Oval can also go either way as four of the competition’s most balanced teams will be vying for semi-final berths.
In the opener, Nu Look 360 Connection, with striker Dwayne Stanford, face Barbados Steel Works Indar Weir Travel Centre Top Bay Settlers who feature two of the island’s finest players in Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge and Kent Hall at 5 p.m.
Then the feature match at 8 p.m. will see the Norman Forde-led Phoenix Toyota UFO Fire House clashing with the unpredictable Broad Street Men’s and Women’s Red Tridents.
Favourites Fire House, with last year’s winning coach Eric Alleyne now dictating their strategy, will have a score to settle against the Tridents, who defeated them in the third-place match of last year’s inaugural tournament.
The Tridents have a well rounded team, loaded with several past and present national players and it won’t be surprising if they were able to extinguish the fire again.
Attacking midfielder Paul “Soup” Lovell has returned to training after resting a hamstring strain and his partnership with Forde and Jason “Fowlie” Blackman will be critical for Fire House.
While Lovell may be fit enough to play, Fire House would also be hoping that hard-working midfielder Dylan Marius is fully recuperated from his last match injury.
Red Tridents have a very solid defence, marshalled by Romelle Burgess and Jonathan Straker with roving wing backs Corey Barrow and Omar Archer.
But they will have to be wary of Ricky Barnes, who had his best offensive game for Fire House against T.S. Strikers when he set up a couple of goals without scoring. This will be a massive test for young Tridents’ goalkeeper Corey Bridgeman, who has aquitted himself well thus far.
The Tridents have a very classy midfield trio of Dwayne “Boot” Griffith, Kadeem “Buju” Atkins and the energetic Curtis Odle, who is extremely difficult to mark and once given any room on the flanks will be running at Fire House’s wing backs Rohan Hall and Timothy Walrond.
The experienced Nicholas Alan King and Kemar Bartlett will therefore have to play a major midfield role in winning balls as well as providing outlet passes to Forde and Lovell.
Riviere Williams will be a threat up front for Red Tridents, while the speedy Dario Wilson can also create a few problems even though they will be up against Oscar Nero and Llewellyn Broomes in the centre of the Fire House defence.
Someone, probably the youthful Atkins or Duwayne Peters, may have to be employed by Tridents’ coach Thomas Joseph in an almost exclusive role to mark Forde out of the game, if that is possible, as a couple of magical moments by him could settle the outcome.
In the opener, Goodridge and tall striker Hendy Richards will be looking to lead Top Bay Settlers to a victory against the Fabian Wharton-owned and managed 360 Connection who include many of their Brittons Hill teammates.
Sweeper Jomo Brathwaite will have the support of six-footers Kevin Padmore and Kemar Chase in marshalling the 360 Connection defence against the likes of Richards, Mustafa Haqq, Ryan “Shaky” Griffith and former Barbados striker Ryan Lucas.
Troy Johnson and Nicolai Blenman are the likely wing backs as Zidigah Samuel may once again have to come off the bench.   
At the other end, it will be interesting to see what position the versatile Goodridge is employed in, as keeping Stanford at bay as well as Kyle Gibson will be a tough task for the likes of the returning Dwayne “Ticky” Skinner, Ricardio Morris, Stuart Hall, Paul Straughn and Tito Beckles.
The midfield battle will see Malcolm “Buju” Marshall, Anthony Cumberbatch, Luther Watson and Shawn King, if he back to full fitness, trying to overcome Kent Hall, Ramuel Miller, Goodridge and Brian Gay.
If the score is tied at the end of regulation or extra time, then penalties would decide the outcome of both games.