Unbeaten Hamilton Parish eager to resume promotion push
Hamilton Parish were making a strong push for promotion from the First Division when a surge in Covid cases a month ago ended domestic sport.
Now the Hot Peppers, like all the other football teams, are waiting for any news on when league play can resume in a season that is already facing a huge backlog.
Parish are the only unbeaten team in the First Division, level at the top on 16 points with Young Men’s Social Club but with a better goal difference and a game in hand. Their 24 goals have come at an average of four a game.
Sergio Goater, the Parish coach, hopes things can return to some degree of normality soon so they can resume their push for promotion back to the Premier Division. An unfinished season would likely mean no promotion or relegation.
“We would just have to go through it all over again, which would be kind of harsh, but what can we do,” said Goater, who is in his first year as coach.
Goater knows all too well that nothing can be taken for granted, like the dropped points against Ireland Rangers in their last outing, which finished 1-1 on November 29. It was their only blemish of the early season when, after taking an 84th-minute lead through captain Kyle Wade, their hopes of a sixth straight victory were dashed by Jahnai Ratteray’s 90th-minute equaliser.
The late-night curfew was extended by the Government last night, putting the season in further doubt. “We can’t even have a proper training session, but people’s health and safety comes first, though I would like for it to be resumed somehow,” Goater said.
The Friendship Trophy and Shield matches did not take place as planned and last Sunday should have seen the beginning of the second half of the league season, with Parish looking to strengthen their grip on first place.
Already there are three weekends of league matches to make up, as well as quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the Friendship and Shield, which were never played and is forcing a backlog. Parish were due to meet Flanagan’s Onions, last year’s losing finalists, in the quarter-finals of the Shield.
“If they were to sacrifice the Friendship and Shield to try to get those league games in, maybe, but it’s not my call,” Goater acknowledged. “They have a tough decision to make.”
Parish were last in the top flight in 2015-16 when their three-year stint in the top flight ended with their tenth defeat of the season.
Social Club, after 37 years out of the top flight, spent just one year back up after getting promoted with X-Roads in 2016-17. The next season they lost 16 of their 18 league games, gaining just two points in a difficult campaign.
When the season stopped in early December, Parish and Social Club were a comfortable six points ahead of the third and fourth-placed teams, Boulevard and St David’s.
After picking up 11 players in the first transfer period, including the returning Shayne Hollis, and Patrick Richardson and captain Kyle Wade from Dandy Town.
Jordan Outerbridge, who played professionally in England and Sweden before returning to the island last year, has been one of the team’s outstanding players with his division-leading 11 goals helping to put Parish in contention for promotion. The recent draw with Ireland Rangers ended their winning streak but taught them some timely lessons.
“We couldn’t let the guys get ahead of themselves, one loss and then all of a sudden it is close,” Goater said of complacency possibly settling in.
“The game against Ireland Rangers was one of those games where I could tell from the beginning that the ball wasn’t going to go in the net.
“We didn’t manage the game, we scored in the 84th minute and all we had to do was maintain what we were doing, but in their minds they wanted to score more. They ended up getting a late equaliser.”
Parish’s next league game was to be a top-of-the-table clash with Social Club on January 10 with first place again at stake. With teams not even training there is no telling when football will resume.
“If nothing happens this month, that could be it because there is no way they are going to be able to fit in all those [make-up] games,” Goater said. “And remember we share fields with cricket.”