ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Title hopefuls Championship Footwear Greenbay Hoppers crashed to their first defeat of the 2012/13 season, going down 1-0 to former champions Sugar Ridge SAP when they met in the second match of a triple-header in imobile Premier Division on Sunday.
The Greenbay men were done in by a 29th minute conversion by Rahkeem Williamson, and despite being presented with many goal-scoring opportunities, could not find the elusive equaliser.
Williamson capitalised on a goalkeeper blunder, pouncing on a loose ball after custodian Omarie “Spence” Joseph failed to grab onto an over-hit cross just inside the area.
The ball found its way onto the boot of the waiting player who was left with nothing more to do than place it into the back of the empty net.
SAP survived a scare shortly after when a mix-up in defence resulted on a clear look on goal for Hoppers’ Eugene Kirwan. The player, in his haste to score, rushed the shot and only managed to push wide of the mark.
But SAP hit back a little later and had a good build-up of six consecutive passes, which left striker Rackley “Leech” Thomas unmarked on the edge of the penalty area. The player pulled his attempt just wide of the upright.
Hoppers’ best opportunity came in the second half, however, when a goal-mouth scramble with a powerful shot fired from within a cluster of players, slammed against the upright and back onto the field of play.
Captain of Hoppers FC, George “Sowa” Dublin, said his team did not capitalise on the many opportunities they had throughout the contest.
“They came out. They played their part. We made a defensive error and they scored. We got some chances and didn’t score, but they got some chances and didn’t score either. But they played a good defensive game and were able to hold on, protecting the one goal they had and we just didn’t convert our chances and so be it – we ended up out of it,” he said.
The defeat leaves Hoppers on 42 points from 17 matches, two points adrift of defending champions LIME Old Road who jumped to the top of the standings for the first time this season with a 3-1 victory in Sunday’s feature contest.
The new development, according to Dublin, does not dishearten the Hoppers men as they’re still on course for a first Premier Division title.
“Hoppers stand the same way they stand today (Monday) as they stood yesterday (Sunday) at 4:55 pm, which is en route to win a championship; nothing has changed. If Hoppers wins this weekend who will end up with the most points? If Hoppers had won yesterday (Sunday) we would have been leading by one point and win next weekend who would win the competition?” Dublin said
“You lose and you know some people are going to be disheartened by getting substituted or maybe not performing at their best and thinking something didn’t go our way based on somebody else but we are still en route to this championship. We are still fully focussed and fully confident that we can win this championship and come next weekend we have it all to prove.”
SAP following the victory moved onto 39 points as they remain in the number three slot in the standings.
Coach of the SAP team, George “Cajawawa” Warner, said it was a clash he had been anticipating ever since missing his team’s first round meeting with the Greenbay team due to national commitments.
“I missed the last one really. I was on national duties for the last one, myself and Eugene Kirwan and one that we call ‘Bling’. We thought that it was something we were missing and that we would have liked to have been three playing against each other and we were looking forward to this. The guys were motivated and I think it’s four in a row for us coming down the stretch; so yes, we were looking out for it,” Warner said.
Hoppers must win when they take on Old Road in Sunday’s feature match at Antigua Recreation Grounds if they are to lift a first national title.
The ‘round south’ men took command of the top league with a 3-1 victory over Special Security Services All Saints United in the feature match last Sunday.
Old Road had goals coming from Stephan Smith who had a double-strike, while there was a single strike from Gason “Bubbler” Gregory.
Striker Kitson Banes opened the scoring when he netted the lone conversion for United.
Old Road moved onto 44 points, while United remained on 24 points.
In Sunday’s opening fixture, Asot’s Arcade Parham and La Bussola Willikies played to a goalless draw. Parham crept to 24 points, while Willikies jumped to 13 points and out of the two-team automatic relegation zone.
A&R Plumbing & Electrical Celtics, on nine points, and Sea View Farm, on 10 points, have already been relegated from the top tier.