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Crunch time


Renaldo Gilkes

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If you heard popular artiste Peter Ram singing his catchy football gingle anytime last week, then you know the National Stadium is the place to be tonight.
Plenty of fireworks are expected, when two semi-final spots come up for grabs as the LIME Pelican Football Challenge continues on a fever pitch on the road to the big showdown on Independence Day.
At 6 p.m., Nulook 360 Connections will be hoping to return to their winning ways when they come up against Bajan Pride. 
The second match two hours later will pit youth against experience when Phoenix Toyota UFO Firehouse clash with TS Strikers.
360 Connections were off to a stellar start of the tournament, convincingly winning their opening two games. However, their remaining three group games proved to be a tough period, as they lost each one, while conceding three goals per game. 
To compound matters for the Valery-based team tonight, they will be without two of their starting centre-backs as Jomo Brathwaite and Dario Alleyne were red-carded in the last group encounter against Firehouse. 
Coach Richard Forde will need to shuffle intelligently, with possible options to deputize for Brathwaite’s and Alleyne’s absence being University of West Indies versatile defender Chad Bynoe, Kemar Chase or the experienced Luther Watson.
Along with allowing goals in, another area of concern has been the shprtage of goals.
Striking duo Dwayne Stanford and Kyle Gibson were among the goals early but have struggled as the tournament progressed.
Zidkigah Samuels and Romel Bynoe are capable of assisting with the goals but their work rate and service from midfield will be key if 360 Connection are to claim a spot in the semi-finals.
Bajan Pride possess the element of surprise. Sometimes they play like the inaugural LIME Pelican champions and other times, like average lads. Which team turns up tonight is anyone’s guess. However if their main marksman Jomo Harewood is in the mood, then 360 Connections backline can expect a busy night.
St Kitts and Nevis international Imron Ponteen has proved to be a worthy ally to Harewood and he has finally settled into the competition. His pace and movement off the ball creates space for Harewood and the midfield run of Kimar Griffith, Shane Clarke and the recently returned Jabarr “Buggy” Greene.
The defensive pairing of Julian Mottley and Shawn Clarke has stood firm throughout the competition and this will need to continue if they are to repeat their 2011 feat.
Firehouse’s intentions at this stage will be looking to go one step further than last year.
The 2012 runners-up have seemingly struck form at the right time and the goal-scoring responsibilities have been dispersed throughout the team, as each of their main attackers has scored so far.
Captain Norman Forde can expect a tough time in midfield, where TS Strikers possess the tough tackling Rico “Sas” Baptiste and his Gall Hill teammate Renaldo Marquez. 
Forde will need Kemar Bartlett, Oscar Nero and Shurland Roberts to be on hand to lend their support in what could be  a gritty affair.
John Hawksworth will assume his usual task as playmaker, providing top-class service to TS Strikers frontline of Jabarry and Jamal Chandler, last game’s hat-trick hero Zico Edmee and Armando Lashley.
A moral boost for TS Strikers is the return of first choice goal keeper Omari Eastmond, who was out due to suspension.

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