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Ezra Stuart


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It will be a clash of champion franchises when title holders Akademiks face inaugural kings Bajan Pride to get the ball rolling in the LIME Pelican Football Challenge today.
This match, at the National Stadium at 4 p.m., will be followed by a 6 p.m. showdown between LG Strike Force and TS Strikers and the nightcap encounter between Top Bay Settlers and Red Snappers at 8 p.m.
Recognizing they have a new test to pass this year, Akademiks have boosted their defence by recruiting two of the country’s most rugged defenders in Omar Archer and Kevin Padmore.
Padmore will join Omar Primus, Jermaine Caeser and teenager Akeem Maloney in the centre of the defence while Archer will vie with Corey “Yank” Taitt and Jamar Thomas for one of the wing back positions.
The experienced Randy Burrowes will again pull the strings in midfield, along with Lionel Paul, Damien Welch and Neil Shepherd as they look to feed strikers Mario Harte and Arantees Lawrence with goal-scoring opportunities.
One can expect an extremely busy evening for the Bajan Pride’s seasoned goalkeeper Morrison Taylor and their defence, marshalled by the evergreen Julian Mottley and diminutive Shane Clarke.
The skillful Jabar “Buggy” Greene will have to conjure up a lot magic in the Bajan Pride midfield if the likes of Jamel Pinder, Imron Ponteen and Carlo Perry are to penetrate the Akademiks’ defence and get a crack at last year’s best goalkeeper and Most Valuable Player Romayne Primus.
The second game could be regarded as a grudge match as last year’s TS Strikers’ coach Randolph Cox is now with the Strike Force outfit.
Cox will know the players in TS Strikers very well as he also coaches the majority of them at Pride of Gall Hill.
In the end, the match could be decided by the striking strength of the Chandler brothers, Jamal and Jabarry, and Armando “Suga” Lashley against a suspect Strike Force defence, which won’t have veterans John “Nobby” Parris and Bryan Neblett.
Former Barbados defender Jonathan Straker and left-sided winger Carl Joseph are both overseas and won’t be available for this match.
The TS Strikers’ defence will also have to keep a close eye on the speedy Strike Force pair of Dwayne Mars and Diquan Adamson.
Top Bay Settlers will start as favourites to beat Red Snappers, who will be keen to show that despite lacking “big-name” players, they are capable to matching strides with the star-studed sides.
Whereas Neblett will bolster the defence, which also includes Steven Griffith and Andre Leslie, Red Snappers have some promising attacking players such as DeCarlo Jemmott and Rashad Jules.
Top Bay’s unit is loaded with a good blend of experience and youth but it would be interesting to see how the legs of Gregory “Lalu” Goodride, Kent Hall, Edwin Brereton, Dwayne Skinner and goalkeeper Bernard Howell stand up throughout the tournament.
Top do have the fire-power upfront to penetrate any defence with three quality strikers in lanky Henderson Richards, Ryan “Shaky” Griffith and injury-prone Mustafa Haqq as well as Brett Carrington.
The addition of Raheim Sargeant should ease the load of Hall in midfield while Teriq Highland will team up with fellow Barbados Defence Force player Ricardio Morris and Tito Beckles in defence, where there are other options such as the experienced trio of Paul Straughn, Dwayne “Ticky” Skinner and Stuart Hall.