Competition dominated by trio from the start
The three most successful teams in the history of the Friendship Trophy will be looking to add another victory to their tally when the quarter-finals of the competition are held on Sunday.
North Village, PHC and Somerset Trojans have 31 wins between them since the competition began 50 years ago with Village winning the first of their eleven titles when they beat Wellington Rovers 1-0 in the final. Somerset, who won the next four finals between 1966 and 1970, and PHC both have ten titles under their belts.
Already a new champion is certain to be crowned after last year's first-time winners, Robin Hood, were knocked out by Somerset in last week's preliminary match. Dandy Town beat Hood in the final but were stripped of the trophy after it was discovered that second half substitute Kevin Hurdle was not listed on the team sheet.
Hood, second in the Premier Division behind Town, have put more emphasis on winning a first league title and playing in another Christmas tournament, the PDL for the first time, and subsequently fielded a weakened team against the Trojans.
“We were the defending champions, but my decision was made because we've entered the PDL tournament over the Christmas period so I needed to see where some of these guys are,” Lightbourne said after the 4-1 loss.
Now, Hood and Town will be well rested prior to playing their final matches of the first half next weekend when Hood meet Lightbourne's former team, PHC, and Town take on Village, two of the favourites for the Friendship.
“The PHC game is going to be difficult for us and we know that,” Lightbourne said. “I expect Village to be in the top four this year and hopefully they will pick points of the teams near the top as well.”
On Sunday the focus switches to the Friendship when eight teams will set their sights on places in the semi-finals which are scheduled for Boxing Day and December 27.
Village, who last won the trophy in the 2011-12 season when they beat Somerset 4-0 in the final, face tricky opponents in Southampton Rangers.
Keith Jennings, the Rangers coach, goes back to Bernard Park to meet his former team.
“We're looking for a good run over the Christmas break,” Richard Todd, the Village coach, said. “We'll focus on Southampton Rangers and try to put ourselves in a good position.”
Somerset have been hot one moment and cold the next, and Boulevard will be hoping their opponents have a case of the chills when they arrive at St John's on Sunday.
Somerset are finding the going tough in defence of their first league title in 22 years, but Boulevard have been struggling in their first season back in the top flight so some cup success would be welcomed by both teams.
Devonshire Colts should have a slight edge over bottom team Hamilton Parish, though Parish will have home advantage as that match, originally scheduled for Police Field, has been switched to Wellington Oval.
Devonshire Cougars, also struggling, will have a tough time against a PHC team that smashed six past Somerset in the league last weekend.
Cougars have kept a clean sheet in their last three outings, picking up a win and two draws, so Cougars have the ability to pull off an upset at home.
All the Friendship matches will be preceded by Shield quarter-final ties, and Somerset Eagles play BAA at Bernard Park in the pick of the matches.
Eagles recently ended BAA's seventeen game unbeaten run going back to last season, so BAA will be looking for revenge against their opponents.
St George's will meet Paget at Wellington Oval, hoping to build on their 3-0 success in the league last Sunday. Flanagan's Onions, the First Division leaders, take on a X-Roads team that won for the first time last weekend when they thrashed Ireland Rangers 5-1.
Mid-table sides Young Men's Social Club and Wolves meet at Devonshire Rec in the other match. Social Club were last season's beaten finalists, going down 3-1 to Devonshire Colts who clinched the promotion and Shield double.
All Shield matches start at midday and the Friendship ties at 2.30pm.
•North Village will begin their defence of the Corona Cup on the weekend of January 29, 30 when they play Vasco in the quarter-finals.
The draw was made earlier this week with Lock & Key paired with West End United for next Tuesday's lone preliminary match, the winners of whom will meet Robin Hood in the quarter-finals. Hood were the beaten finalists at the end of last season.
In other quarter-final matches Flanagan's Onions will play BAA and Butterfield & Vallis will meet Tuff Dogs. The semi-finals are scheduled for February 26 and the final on April 8.