Devonshire Cougars’ Dudley Eve Trophy defence is now out of their hands.
A 1-1 draw with Boulevard and a 2-0 defeat against PHC Zebras, who they beat in last year’s final, saw Cougars take only one point from group B.
They must now rely on the Zebras to beat Boulevard Blazers by three goals in Sunday’s final round of group matches at Police Field if they are to progress to the semi-finals.
“If they [PHC] end up beating them [Boulevard], they do, and if they don’t, they don’t,” Omar Butterfield, the Cougars coach, said.
“Last season we were using this competition more as preparation for the league campaign and it’s the same this year, so we are not going to dwell too much on [retaining] the trophy because we are going for bigger things.”
Cougars have been in this position before, as they scraped through to the semi-finals on goal difference after taking only one point from their group on the way to winning the trophy last year.
Butterfield admits defending the trophy has brought a “different” challenge to a very youthful Cougars squad this year.
“It has been different this year as defending champions but I try not to let that affect my team,” the former Cougars defender said. “I don’t say ‘we are the defending champions so let’s go defend our title’. I tell my players let’s just go into the game and try and have a good performance and show that we are working.
“We are just trying to improve game by game and if we make it through to the semi-finals we do and if we don’t we don’t.”
Butterfield, who won league and cup honours during his playing stint at Cougars, said he was encouraged by his team’s performance, albeit in a losing cause against PHC at Bernard Park at the weekend.
“It was a big improvement [on Sunday] and we gave PHC something to think about, which I appreciate,” he said. “We got to test ourselves a little more playing against a better opponent.
“I was pleased with the fitness and things like that, and so it was a big improvement.”
PHC, North Village and Robin Hood are already through, with Sunday’s final group matches to determine the winners of both group A and group B.
PHC are through, as mathematically they cannot be overhauled by Cougars, while Hood’s 4-0 demolition of Somerset Trojans at the weekend sent them and idle Village through to the last four after Trojans were eliminated.
“It’s good that we are already through but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Randy Spence, the North Village assistant coach, said.
Village play Hood in the remaining group A match on Sunday.
“We are playing to decide who wins the group which is important because the winner plays the runner up from the other group in the semi-finals,” Spence said. “We want to win the group and send out a message. No matter who is in front of you we just want to do a good job and move on and in order to do that you must always be organised and focused.
“It’s all about preparation and we want to give 110 per cent in every match. Team unity is also very important in order to win.”
Village thrashed Hood 7-0 in the group stage of last year’s Dudley Eve Trophy, a result that allowed Cougars to scrape through to the semi-final on goal difference.
PHC face Boulevard at 3pm on Sunday, while Hood against Village kicks off at 5.