Thu, Aug

MANY are wondering who will beat Vibe CT105 W Connection, following the Savonetta-based club's brilliant start to the 2005 T&T Pro League season.

After three rounds of matches, Connection have already seen off their three main rivals in defending champions National Quarries North East Stars (4-0), CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh (2-1) and Caledonia AIA/Fire (3-0).

Now, Connection are there to be shot at and are the ones everyone has their focus on. Today, they are expected to take their winning streak to four against new boys United Petrotrin in one of two derby games on the schedule.

From 4 p.m. at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, W Connection take on Petrotrin in a South derby which looks more like a remake of the David and Goliath classic.

Petrotrin were once the big team in T&T club football, but having been out of the top flight for some time, coach Brian Williams is well aware that they are now odds-on underdogs.

Williams is a former employee of the David John-Williams-owned W Connection team and knows how formidable his opponents are.

The ex-Strike Squad defender doesn't have players of the calibre of Connection's Brazilians and instead works with young players, many of whom were struggling to make the grade at some of the top clubs.

He believes that teamwork is his squad's best asset this season.

A good friend of W Connection coach Reynold Carrington, Williams is also very respectful of his opponents.

"I know that W Connection is one of the more organised teams in the country. They have been playing well and have won their three matches to date," said Williams, who has already mapped out a strategy which he thinks will bring his young line-up a good result.

"I think we need to be cautious, tight at the back and play behind the ball," he added.

Williams hopes to get the best out of a Petrotrin squad that really did not have a pre-season, but whom he felt did well to beat Tobago United 3-2 in their first game after just two weeks of preparation.

At W Connection, owner John-Williams has a big smile on his face these days and credits his team's longest-ever pre-season preparations as the reason for their excellent start.

Determined to have a good season, Connection began preparing on January 16 and included a six-week camp, during which players were only allowed to go to their homes on a Sunday.

Despite the brilliant start, though, John-Williams is well aware of the effects that injury, suspensions and loss of form can have in a long 21-match league campaign.

However, he is still expecting the full three points today against Petrotrin, despite respecting the oil team's history.

The North derby at the Hasely Crawford Stadium at 4 p.m. features Defence Force and Jabloteh, the two teams which share the venue.

Jabloteh have scored just one goal in two matches and new head coach Michael Grayson expects much more from a team which contains so much talent.

Grayson's strategy has been to have his players work harder and to mix up his strikers. Having previously started Nigel Pierre and Devon Mitchell, Grayson will most likely give deft dribbler Kerry Noray a start. He is also boosted by the return of influential midfielder Otis Seaton and stopper Keyeno Thomas, who have both recovered from ankle injuries.

Grayson has his eyes firmly on Connection and is anxious they don't poach too big a lead.

"It's a long season," Grayson acknowledges, "but Connection are already five points ahead. We cannot afford to lose this match."

Somewhat surprisingly, team manager Lieutenant Henry Charles believes the Defence Force have genuine title hopes, despite several poor seasons by the nine-time national champs.

The Army/Coast Guard combination have a squad made up largely of youngsters who have been together three years now.

They have had a much better pre-season -which included a tour to Canada in February-than in recent years and Charles made a bold prediction about the Defence Force's prospects.

"I expect us to win this season," Charles boasts.

A goalless draw with North East Stars and three points from a defaulted game with Petrotrin have Defence Force sitting pretty in second place.

But they too feel they must win today to keep in touch with the early leaders.