Morton: we still believe
PHC Zebras aim to bounce back from their first loss of the season two weeks ago when they play host to North Village in the Premier Division this afternoon.
The league leaders were stunned 3-0 by Dandy Town Hornets in their previous match, but coach Scott Morton insists that his team are ready to bounce back.
“Things are back to normal, the players have responded positively, in fact immediately after the game they were positive, so I have no worries from that aspect,” said Morton whose team still hold a four-point advantage at the top. “Everyone is still committed to training, the belief is there and we're continuing on our path. There is definitely no complacency.”
Certainly the Town victory has given other teams like Devonshire Cougars and North Village some hope of featuring in the title race. Not necessarily a bad thing, Morton says.
“The race is tighter now and that is good for football, it makes the players stand up and be counted for their actions,” he said. “For the fans I hope it continues to be enjoyable for them because we can't forget it is a key part of football, entertaining the fans.
“This will, hopefully, encourage more fans to come out and see what the rest of the season is going to produce.”
Saturday afternoon games were introduced this season because of a shortage of referees, and is something the clubs are embracing. It will give PHC the opportunity to draw a good crowd today.
“It's something different and we just have to adapt to it which we have,” Morton said. “It's just another game that we have to play, whether it's daytime, morning time or weekends. We just approach it as another game and I'm thankful we don't have any issues throughout the team or the club regarding any of that. We're just prepared to adhere to the scheduling and move forward.
“That helps me adapt as a coach. Coaching is not just on the field, the biggest part of coaching is off the field so I welcome anything like that to challenge me.”
Only six points separate the top-five teams, with Village looking to follow up on the Town result and get one over on PHC, who have beaten them in their last three meetings.
The league race looked to be a two-horse race, but consecutive losses by Robin Hood and a first defeat for PHC has made it much closer. Victory for Village will move them three points behind the Zebras while another PHC win would all but eliminate Village from title contention. Between them, the clubs have 17 league titles, PHC are just one behind Somerset Trojans, who lead with ten.
PHC won the earlier league encounter 4-0 at Bernard Park and then added the Friendship Trophy to their season collection after a 2-0 win in the New Year's Day final.
Marco Warren, PHC's midfield dynamo, is the league's leading scorer with 17 goals and will be one of PHC's main scoring threats along with captain Cecoy Robinson, while Village will rely on Keishen Bean and Shayne Hollis up front. Warren netted twice in PHC's win at Bernard Park.
Today's night match sees bottom teams Flanagan's Onions and Young Men's Social Club meeting at Goose Gosling Field and looking for rare victories to launch a revival.
Social Club remain the only team in the top division without a victory and another loss will leave them six points adrift and staring relegation in the face.
X-Roads are hoping to carry on from their recent 5-1 victory over Robin Hood, picking up three valuable points to move six clear of the relegation zone. They travel to St David's to meet Boulevard tomorrow, while Robin Hood play host to Devonshire Cougars at Goose Gosling Field in a clash between third and fourth-placed teams, and Town face Somerset at St John's Field.
Paget Lions are aiming to make it nine wins in 11 matches at the top of the First Division when they travel to Wellington Oval to meet a St George's team whose confidence was boosted by their FA Cup upset over Trojans.
The East Enders are fourth, nine points behind, but a win for them would not only help their cause but enable BAA and Southampton Rangers to close in on the top spot.
Paget presently lead BAA by two points and Rangers by three in what will be a three-team race for two spots if St George's fail to take maximum points. BAA meet Devonshire Colts in the opening game at Goose Gosling Field while Rangers take on Wolves at Southampton Oval.
St David's entertain Ireland Rangers and mid-table Somerset Eagles take on bottom team Hamilton Parish at White Hill Field.