Arnett Gardens ready for big Humble Lions semifinal clash

In 2002 Leon Strickland watched on like an extra in a daytime soap, as his Arnett Gardens teammates powered to their third Jamaican national title, the last title won by the Kingston side.

Thirteen years later, Strickland, who is weeks away from his 33rd birthday, is playing a leading role as the inner city-based "Junglists" -- one of Jamaica's most well-supported clubs, look to end their decade-long drought.

Kevin "Pele" Wilson, who should at least make the bench and Cornel Chin-Sue, were the protagonists in 2002, but it's now their turn to sit on the bench and hope that Strickland can make the most of his time in the limelight and lead the team back to the top of the pile.

First, they will have to get through a team that in so many ways represents their opposite: Humble Lions are standing in the way and are just as eager to make the most of what is their first trip among the island's elite.

The two outfits are set to face each other in the first leg of the semifinals of the Red Stripe Premier League on Sunday evening at Arnett Gardens' 7,000 capacity Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex, situated a stone's throw away from where legendary Jamaican musician Bob Marley himself grew up and fell in love with the sport.

Strickland has been making some sweet music of his own on the field this season, helping himself to 10 goals, as Arnett Gardens finished the preliminary rounds on top of the table with 69 points (33 games); 16 more than their Central Jamaica-based opponents.

However, Strickland is far from satisfied and is desperate to play a starring role in his team's march to the title, which is set to be played May 25.

"The last time we won the Premier League, I was a part of the team but of course I did not play a major role, so now that I am playing a major role I want to bring it home," Strickland noted in the build-up to the game.

Humble Lions, who are being backed by colourful Jamaican politician Mike Henry, will certainly walk into this contest full of confidence, despite this being their first semifinal appearance since their promotion to the top flight in 2008.

It has been a much different experience for the Donavan Duckie-coached Humble Lions outfit, who has spent the majority of their Red Stripe Premier League experience battling relegation. In fact, Duckie, a former Jamaica Under-20 national team coach, was brought in to save the team from the drop the end of 2014, and had ended up building a well-balanced machine, capable and determined to topple the nation's giants. Humble Lions are also looking to become the first team from the parish of Clarendon to win the Premier League title since Hazard FC (Now Portmore United) in 2003.

Having conceded the fewest amount of goals among the semifinalists (26) and boasting some heavy arsenal of their own in Reggae Boyz capped-Devon Hodges, who leads the team with seven goals; Wolry Wolfe, Hugh Howell, Francois Swaby and Kameel Wolfe, Humble Lions are seen by many as the dark horses for the title.

And Humble Lions will certainly not be short of confidence, as they were the last side to hand Arnett Gardens defeat, coming back in February.