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Smith: Town are still team to beat

Up for the FA Cup: Korvon Tucker passes the ball in a recent Dandy Town game

Hamilton Parish will have their work cut out when they welcome champions Dandy Town to Wellington Oval for an FA Cup first-round tie tomorrow.

It is a match-up between new league leaders Parish and third-placed Town, but Kieshon Smith, the Parish coach, insists that Town are still the team to beat after an unbeaten run that has taken them up the table and very much back in the title race.

Included in that winning run was a visit to Wellington Oval, where they beat Parish on December 21, denying them a second opportunity to take over the top spot. However, there was no denying Parish on Monday night, when they beat Devonshire Cougars to become the fifth team this season to lead the league.

“We’ve always been a target but this time it is for a different reason, as normally teams would mark us down for three points,” Smith said. “A lot of teams are trying to win the league, but what I will say is our relegation worries have been put to bed. Right now our focus is Dandy Town on Sunday.”

Fresh in the minds of the Parish players will be last year’s quarter-final loss to Town on a waterlogged pitch at St John’s Field, where the conditions were so bad that Smith thought the match should have been called off.

“I’ve been wanting to get that game back since last year,” he said. “Both teams were playing good football and I was upset that the game wasn’t postponed because you know how Dandy Town’s field gets with the amount of water that was out there.”

Town have pulled themselves up from the depths of the Premier Division and are now well in contention in the title race, although they did have a recent hiccup when they beat Robin Hood in the Friendship Trophy final only to lose the trophy because Kevin Hurdle, a substitute, was not listed on the team sheet. They were thus denied becoming the first club to hold all five trophies at the same time.

“Jomar [Wilkinson] and those guys are doing a good job and I know they are even more frustrated about giving away a trophy through an unfortunate technical issue,” Smith said. “I have a lot of respect for Jomar, who doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

“Not only is this going to be a tough cup game, but we also still have to play them in the league as well, which is another trophy they own. Dandy Town are the defending champions and are probably the team to beat.”

Smith may be able to call on one or two veterans from Parish’s Masters League team. Town, by contrast, have put their faith in teenagers this season, an approach that has borne fruit in the past few weeks.

Two other all-Premier Division match-ups involve Devonshire Cougars, the 2013 champions, taking on Flanagan’s Onions at Devonshire Recreation Club and Southampton Rangers hosting St George’s at Southampton Oval.

The first round begins tonight with two matches. Robin Hood play Young Men’s Social Club at Goose Gosling Field at 9pm, while Somerset Trojans are at home to Corona League outfit B&V United in an 8pm kick-off. B&V, making their first appearance in the Island’s most prized competition, handily beat BAA Wanderers in the preliminary round.

In tomorrow’s other matches, Boulevard play Wolves at Police Field, St David’s take on PHC at Lord’s and North Village entertain Somerset Eagles at Bernard Park.