Photo: Tiffany Gayle scored the winning penalty for Denham Town High to defeat St. Jago High and send her school into their first final in the ISSA/LockerRoom Schoolgirl football competition. They will face defending champions Exclesior High in the final at the Spanish Town Prison Oval Field on Monday.
Denham Town High on Thursday, earned the right to face defending champions Excelsior High School in the ISSA/LockerRoom Schoolgirl Football final after both teams advanced to Monday’s final following contrasting wins at the Spanish Town Prison Oval.
Denham Town got the better of former champions St. Jago High 4-2 on penalties while Excelsior High edged their main rivals Lennon High 1-0 through a 45th minute strike from National representative Davia Richards and now get the chance to defend the title they won last year.
In the opening encounter, St. Jago were left cursing their luck after they squandered a number of chances to win the game in normal time. They dominated the game from start to finish with Denham Town rarely getting out of their half or having a shot on target.
However, St. Jago was rarely able to test the Denham Town goalkeeper despite all their possession but when called upon Shaneika Powell managed to come up with the goods to keep her team in the contest. After 80 minutes of regular time and 14 minutes of extra time, it came down to the dreaded penalty kicks.
Denham Town kicked first and their penalty was saved while St. Jago scored their first penalty to take the early advantage. The second penalty for Denham Town went in off the right upright to bring them back into the contest. Powell then saved the next St. Jago kick to make it 1-1 after two kicks apiece.
Both teams scored their next attempt to make it 2-2 but things stared to get more interesting when Denham Town went 3-2 ahead after they scored and St. Jago missed.
Having scored three on the trot after missing their first penalty it meant that if Tiffany Gayle scored Denham Town would be in the final. Gayle held her nerve and placed the ball beyond the despairing dive of the St. Jago keeper as it kissed off the base of the right upright and into the back of the net to cue mass celebrations from the West Kingston based school.
Denham Town head coach Omar Edwards was pleased with how the players executed the team strategy.
“It was a pretty decent game, St. Jago came out and they gave it their all. We managed to play a medium press game because we recognized their strength in attack and we nullified their flank players and it worked quite well for us.
“We made some adjustments to make sure we see out the second half and in extra time we managed to ride it out.”
Edwards was pleased with how his players were able to hold their nerves in the shootout while he praised his goalkeeper for coming up trumps on the big occasion.
“It went all the way, down to the wire, penalty shootout and we have managed to keep our nerves steady and converted several good penalties which resulted in a good victory for us.
“Our goalkeeper Shaneika Powell came up real big for us, she saved two penalties. She was one of our weak points in the early season but we have managed to do a lot of work on her and to see the progress that she has made in the end is really a plus. Kudos to the entire team, kudos to the principal, the coaching staff and everybody for making it a success.”
The second encounter was a closer affair when the last two schools to win the competition met. Excelsior had defeated Lennon 2-1 in last year’s final but went down 4-0 to their rivals last week when they met in the quarter final round.
Lennon came into the contest brimming with confidence but found a well prepared Excelsior High too much to handle. Excelsior dominated the first half, limiting their opponents to only a few touches in the final third while launching attacks in waves.
They were duly rewarded when Richards scored with a glancing header from a corner kick, moments before the fourth official raised the board to indicate one minute of added time at the end of the first half.
Excelsior continued to dominate in the second half and could have extended their lead had they been more clinical in front of goal. In the end, the one goal would prove to be enough to see them safely through to the final where they will get the chance to defend their title.
Exceklsior veteran player Tatiyana Pitter said that the win over Lennon was revenge for lthe recent loss.
"It’s a wonderful feeling. They beat us four nil and we came here with a strategy to beat them, this is like our revenge match and we are glad that we beat them today."
Excelsior coach Xavier Gilbert was pleased with the response of his team to the loss to Lennon last week.
“We played them last week and we lost the game 4-0. We knew where we went wrong so we made the necessary adjustments and then the girls ‘turned up’ today and credit must be given to them.”
Gilbert also revealed that no team talk was required ahead of the game as his girls were already mentally prepared to handle the task at hand.
“At the start of the game they said, coach we have this one and we are gonna give it our all, and they did that today. I must commend them for the way they executed in terms of our game plan and our strategy and the set piece as well, it worked and credit must be given to them. I think we defended very well. We were very organized, they didn’t manage to get any real shots on goal, so again we have to thank the players for that.”
The former national women’s coach said they were fully aware of why they lost to the same opponents in the quarter finals recently, but was happy they were still able to advance to the semifinals.
“They had a game plan when they beat us 4-0 and they executed very well and we just didn’t turn up and play our usual game…and we weren’t fighting enough in that game. Fortunately for us we advanced to the semifinals as well.”
The veteran coach thought the draw had been tough on the two best teams in the league.
“It’s kinda tough that we…both teams winning, except for St. Jago splitting us one, for the last 13 years, winning the competition and we meet in the semifinal, it’s just unfortunate. I still think we are the two best teams in the completion and I think all being well we should been on opposite sides of the bracket…and we probably would have met in the finals and not in the second round or even in the semifinals,” he stated.
Monday’s final at the Prison Oval field will be preceded by a third place playoff between Lennon High and St. Jago High.