X-Roads on twin mission
X-Roads are aiming to finish an up and down second season in the Premier Division by achieving two firsts: qualification for the Dudley Eve Trophy and an appearance in the FA Cup final.
The ups came in the first half of the campaign when they won six of their opening seven league matches to put themselves alongside PHC Zebras and Robin Hood in the top three, briefly holding down first place.
The downs came at the turn of the year when the East End team struggled to earn a win and have now gone nine games without a league victory.
They have dropped to fifth in the table, but with points already in the bag, should qualify for the Dudley Eve Trophy next season.
X-Roads missed out on the competition last season, finishing eighth after losing their final three matches.
This season they are aiming to finish ahead of Devonshire Cougars and North Village, who meet at Bernard Park on Sunday.
X-Roads play bottom side Paget Lions on Sunday at Southampton Oval, where anything but victory will seal the home side's relegation to the First Division after just one season.
“We definitely still have things to play for, even with all the negative results we've been getting lately,” said X-Roads coach Farid El Karfa, whose side face Dandy Town in the FA Cup semi-final this month.
Town beat X-Roads 5-2 in the league last weekend, having lost 6-0 to El Karfa's side last November.
“A top-four finish will still be a legitimate objective to play for, plus the FA Cup,” El Karfa added.
“There have been some challenges; we lost a few key players, injuries and red cards, which had a big impact on the team.
“We've just been very unlucky lately and it's been very difficult, putting pressure on other players to come up with extra efforts to keep the performances going. It was a series of bad luck and we didn't see it coming. Things happen and we just have to deal with it.
“We're at the point now where the team really has to show character more than ever before, to try to finish the season with some level of achievement.
“Up to this point, we are still in position to achieve something this season. We are aware of who we are playing in the FA Cup semi-finals and know they are decent opponents.
“My team will have to show character, play good football and play to win.”
Paul Simons, who studies overseas, was X-Roads' outstanding player in the previous round, netting four goals in a 5-0 win over St George's.
X-Roads will likely look into bringing him back for the semi-final. “There is no confirmation right now, but there is a possibility,' El Karfa said.
“He's a key player, of course, we are aware of that. At the same time, I think my team is able to pull out a good performance.
“If we show the character that we showed in the first part of the season, it will be possible for the team to earn a victory against anybody.”
Donavan Thompson, the team's top scorer, with 20 goals, returns from a ban this weekend against Paget, who have not won a match since October 28 when they beat Somerset Trojans 3-0.
Thompson holds a narrow lead over Angelo Simmons, of Town, and BAA's Keishen Bean in the scoring charts, with Simmons a goal behind on 19 after bagging a hat-trick last weekend. Bean's two goals against Paget last weekend moved him up to 18 in the league.
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