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Antigua to provide opposition for Blues

PUBLISHED: 14:27 16 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:24 05 July 2010

DESTINATION SUFFOLK: The Antigua and Barbuda national team.

DESTINATION SUFFOLK: The Antigua and Barbuda national team.

Mark Boggis

YOU may have heard of the Reggae Boyz, but a new Caribbean beat will hit north Suffolk next weekend.

The Journal can today exclusively reveal that Antigua & Barbuda's Wadidli Boys will clash against FA Vase finalists Lowestoft Town on Saturday, May 24.

Mark Boggis

YOU may have heard of the Reggae Boyz, but a new Caribbean beat will hit north Suffolk next weekend.

The Journal can today exclusively reveal that Antigua & Barbuda's Wadidli Boys will clash against FA Vase finalists Lowestoft Town on Saturday, May 24.

Ranked as the 127th best national side in the FIFA list, the team - who feature three full time professionals - will be travelling to Suffolk to play two friendlies against Lowestoft and Ipswich Wanderers.

The matches come ahead of a crucial double-header in the CONCACAF qualifying section on the road to the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010.

As members of the Caribbean zone - along with the likes of Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago - the side managed by former player Derrick Edwards will take on Cuba home and away next month.

But before then, they will play two international friendlies against Ridgeon League teams in May. Next Saturday, Micky Chapman and Ady Gallagher's men - playing their first game together since their heartbreaking 2-1 Vase Final defeat against Kirkham & Wesham - will collide with the Antiguans.

With Lowestoft's Crown Meadow pitch out of action as an upgrade of facilities takes place in preparation to get the ground ready for Ryman League standards, the match will be played at the home of Bungay Town FC, kicking off at 1pm.

And then on Saturday, May 31, Ipswich Wanderers will provide the opposition to Antigua in a game to be played at Humber Doucy Lane, kicking off at 2pm.

The Antiguans may be more used to the sultry sunshine of the Caribbean as opposed to the biting Bungay winds, but they are using their UK trip to prepare for the biggest matches of their lives next month.

With Ipswich Wanderers committee members chauffeuring the national side around Suffolk for the fixtures, Lowestoft Town chairman Geoff Price revealed he was “delighted” to be part of the international friendlies.

“It's a great opportunity to play a national team and help them in preparation for their game against Cuba, while raising some money as well. “The players are looking forward to it and it's a nice way to finish the season after their superb efforts at Wembley.”

Tickets for the match at Maltings Meadow - Bungay's ground - cost £5 for adults, £3 for concessions and £2 for children.

“We are hoping to attract a crowd of around 1,000 and if we could do that it would be fantastic,” Price said.

As a medium-sized Caribbean nation, which is made up of two islands - Antigua and Barbuda - the team's best performance was in the 1998 Caribbean Cup, where they were placed forth.

More renowned in cricketing circles, the Antiguans play their home matches at St. John's - the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium - which is home of their favourite son and cricketing legend.

Renowned for a being a side that according to manager Edwards “takes advantage of our power and speed,” they are banking on the addition of a trio of overseas professionals to bolster his squad of part-timers.

These are Trinidad and Tobago Premier League strikers Peter Byers and Gayson Gregory and veteran defender and captain George Dublin. Byers finished as the League's top scorer in 2007, with 15 goals for San Juan Jabloteh - a side managed by ex-England international Terry Fenwick.

After knocking out Bermuda in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup qualifying rounds, they eventually went out to traditional Central American powers Guatemala. In the next cycle of qualifying, for Germany 2006, the men from the island of just under 70,000 just lost out the Netherlands Antilles.

On the way to setting up a clash with Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda beat Aruba 4-0 over two legs in February and March. If successful here, the Antiguans will progress to the semi final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualification

Speaking recently about this clash, Edwards said: “I suppose it's better than drawing the USA or Mexico - but Cuba are one of the best teams in the Caribbean and with increased fitness and preparations we'll be going in with confidence.”

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