As the preparation for the two-month extended winter break begins, we review how the Second Division season has panned out so far.
The Second Division starts today, and with it shaping up to be a very competitive league as teams push for the Premier Division, we take a look at the nine teams in the division for 2017/18.
We’ll look at the nine teams, how they’ve done over the summer and try to predict where they may finish this season.
Photo (C) Gibraltar Phoenix
Opening Second Division Fixtures
The fixture of the week could arguably be the very first one as last season’s runners up Brunos Magpies take on relegated Europa Point tonight.
Thursday sees Cannons and Hound Dogs face off before one of the overhauled teams, Leo, take on a Boca team who look much stronger on paper.
Finally, Olympique get their season underway on Sunday and with a team boasting Gibraltar internationals of recent seasons, they’ll be favourites against College 1975
Angels have a bye week due to the fact there’s nine teams in the league and wait until October 7th to start their season, against Magpies.
A nightmare season after being relegated from the Premier saw Angels come 8th last season, and losing manager Lewis Fraser will be a big issue for the team this time out. A year on, we see the team doing better but with so much competition around them in the league, a mid-table finish is likely – still an improvement on last season and they may be a nuisance to the teams above them.
Quitely, and without too much fanfare, Boca have improved their team a fair bit in the summer, with signings such as Liam Clarke and Estiven likely to prove key in their battle this season. They managed a third place finish last season and pushed Brunos for most of the season – we can see them repeating that feat this time out and who knows, maybe even sneak into second if they win key games against the likes of Magpies and Olympique. If their team is as good as their social media updates, they’ll be ones to watch this year.
The once-whipping boys of the league, Cannons have become a much better team in recent seasons. They’ve strengthened in the summer but they may find it half to replicate their 4th place finish of last season which was arguably a massive over-achievement for the team. 7th may be a little harsh and they could just as easily finish 5th if one or two games go their way over the course of the season against teams around them.
College 1975 (8th)
College improved last season after a largely shambolic start to their career as a club, however very little is known about what the club have done over the summer, and as such our prediction of 8th may turn out to look foolish after a couple of games. It doesn’t seem likely they’ll have strengthened enough compared to the other teams in the league.
Europa Point (6th)
It is far from easy for teams who have been relegated to go straight back up, and Europa Point enter the second division knowing they’ve a massive battle on their hand to do just that. Key for them is keeping the core of a team together for the whole season, but ultimately we feel they’ll come up short when it matters, especially as any key players in the first half of the season will likely leave as per the club’s ‘stepping stone’ policy.
Hound Dogs (9th)
While their commitment to develop local talent can only be applauded, it may not get them very far in the league this season, and unfortunately for Hound Dogs we feel they’ll come bottom in what will be a highly competitive league. Should some of their youngsters shine though, expect Hound Dogs to upset a few teams along the way especially later in the season.
They were arguably unlucky not to win their playoff match vs Manchester last season, but Magpies have to settle for another crack at going up. Another team doing a lot off the pitch to improve themselves, they have built a good team in the summer and it will be interesting to see who starts for them against Europa Point.
In David Wilson they have one of the best managers across both divisions, and much like Olympique they have a strong core of locals making up their team. Expect them to push Olympique all the way but just finish second – we do expect them to be playing Premier Division football next season whether they finish second or first.
Another team who had a major overhaul in the summer, Leo hired former Spain striker Catanha to manage them in the summer – his first job in management after retiring from football as a player. They’ve bought in a number of players too, largely from the Campo region, utilising the contacts their manager no doubt has.
Our prediction of fourth takes into account the team largely staying together all season – as is often the case teams can fall apart during the season and Leo must avoid that at all costs or else they’ll find themselves in bother pretty quickly.
Our favourites to win the league, Olympique have transformed spectacularly both on and off the pitch in the summer, with new investor Sunday Adeleye helping the team get in the likes of Jordan Perez and Robert Montovio who have both played for Gibraltar; Perez notably was Gibraltar’s first-choice keeper and has experience playing against teams such as Germany and Poland.
They also appointed Lewis Fraser as manager, and off the pitch they are arguably as good as any team at the moment in the division. Big things are expected of Olympique.
A goal in both halves from Manuel Vecino and Daniel Navarro secured Cannons a shock 2-0 win over a lacklustre Red Imps side.
Less than fifteen minutes into the first half Cannons took the lead, a cross was whipped in and found the unmarked Manuel Vecino who guided his header past Jaylan Hankins. Red Imps came battling back, Dan Lane’s shot was saved by Adrain Mariscal.
Cannons looked the better side in the first half and nearly doubled their lead just before half-time, Manuel Vecino capitalised on a Nick Busto mistake and played Daniel Navarro through on goal, the striker’s low shot struck the post. Cannons went into half-time with a 1-0 lead.
Dylan Hayes scored twice to fire Leo to the top of Second Division with a comfortable 3-0 win over Cannons.
The first half was an evenly contested affair, both teams were playing some great football but neither were able to create any goalscoring opportunities. It took fifteen minutes for the first chance to be created, Rafael Rodriguez’s cross was punched out by Ernest Podesta as far as Adan Guerrero, the winger’s shot went just wide.
Leo continued to pressure and opened the scoring with ten minutes of the first half remaining, Dylan Hayes received the ball in the middle, controlled and slotted his shot past Podesta. Leo went into half-time leading 1-0.
The second half started with Leo dominating and nearly doubled their lead early on but Ernest Podesta pulled off a great save to keep out Hayes’ shot. Leo did manage to make it 2-0 minutes later, Kieron Williams brought down Ivan Clavijo in the box. Dylan Hayes stepped up and coolly slotted his penalty past Podesta.
Leo continued to dominate but were unable to find a way past the defensive duo of Sergio Merino & Angel Luis Hermoso. With twenty minutes remaining Leo made it 3-0, Alfonso Benitez’s cross found Jose Ferrer in the middle, the striker drilled his shot into the bottom corner from six yards out.
Dylan Hayes had a few chances near the end to get his hat-trick but Ernest Podesta was on hand to prevent them from going in, terrific performance from the Cannons keeper. Leo were able to hold on for the last few minutes and win the game 3-0.
This win sees Leo move two points clear of Europa Point in second while Cannons remain tenth.