Vere United ready to represent Clarendon
When Vere United take the field tomorrow for their opening quarterfinal leg of the 2021 Jamaica Premier League playoffs, they will carry the hopes of an entire parish, a responsibility that head coach Donovan Duckie is proud to bear and determined to use.
Vere United will play Tivoli Gardens in the second match of the quarterfinal double-header at 2:30 p.m. at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence. Vere United's place in the playoffs was secured thanks to last Friday's results but they missed out on an automatic qualification semi-final berth thanks to a 1-0 defeat to Cavalier in their regular-season finale. Tivoli Gardens will be making an appearance in the playoffs for the first time in three years.
With Humble Lion missing out on a playoff berth, Vere will be the only club from Clarendon represented in the post-season. Given how close the club came to relegation before last season's cancellation, Duckie says that they are proud of their achievement but eager for more.
"The people, I'm sure, are proud. It's good to represent the parish of Clarendon. There is a lot of feedback that we get on a day-to-day basis. It's a huge moment for us," Duckie said.
Given that it is Duckie's first season, even he did not expect the improvement given the limited time of preparation in pre-season and what he had to work with. But he says that they will not be satisfied with how far they've come.
"Now, we have to refocus the guys because we are not going to sit comfortably in the top six. We are in it to win it, and it is very realistic for us," Duckie said. Vere will pin their hopes on leading scorers Ricardo Messam and Ricardo Dennis (two goals each) as they look to get past Mount Pleasant. Tivoli clipped Vere 1-0 when the teams met on August 28. Tivoli have hit top form late, winning three of their last five matches and drawing the others. Forward Asprellia Alexander and midfielders Devroy Grey and Horatio Morgan have been the key men, and if they report in top form, Tivoli should get past Vere.
Meanwhile, Harbour View, who punched the last playoff ticket last week Friday, will face Mount Pleasant in their quarterfinal first-leg encounter at noon. The "Stars of the East" got the required results they needed as well as a 1-0 win over Arnett Gardens to sneak into the top six. Mount Pleasant secured their place with a 5-2 drubbing of Dunbeholden last Friday. Harbour View head coach Ludlow Bernard said that the manner in which they secured that final spot has motivated his young squad, and now they are aiming for the championship.
"Going forward, they could be dangerous because they will have that freedom to really play and express themselves this time around," Bernard said "I think all players are motivated to put up a serious challenge regardless of our opponents." Leading goalscorer, Harbour View's Oquassa Chong (six goals), has been fairly quiet in recent weeks but could return to his early season form with a semi-final spot at stake.
Mount Pleasant issued a warning to all their rivals with the big win last Friday. The man to watch is former schoolboy star Jourdaine Fletcher, who has found the net three times in his last three games. Fletcher was on target two times in the 5-2 win.
12:00: Harbour View vs Mount Pleasant
2:30 p.m: Vere United vs Tivoli Gardens