Jamaica College carved out a gritty 2-1 win over a determined 10-man Charlie Smith,`in extra time, to defend their Manning Cup title at the National Stadium on Saturday. It was their third title in four years and second since their treble winning season of 2011.
The game took a while to come alive but when it did, it provided a treat for the fans who packed into the grandstand and not surprisingly ended up being decided in extra time.
An intriguing battle was fought early in midfield as neither team was able to dominate in the game which meant few attacking opportunities were being created.
Like he did in the semifinals, Odane Samuels was sent to mark the opponents danger-man and he gave JC captain
Junior Flemmings little room to play in and even less time on the ball.
The first time JC got behind the Charlie Smith defence was when Raffique Bryan slipped in ahead of his marker but goalkeeper Leon Taylor was quickly off his line to snuff out the danger.
Taylor was called into action shortly after when he produced a splendid diving save to keep out a free kick from Allando Brown.
Donovan Segree tried a long range effort and it was well saved by Taylor in minute 28th.
Charlie Smith had their first real effort on target after 30 minutes when Bebeto McDonald slipped in Norval Christie but his side-footed effort was saved by at the near post by Courtney Dowdie.
Junior Flemmings found space and had a shot at goal that was tipped over the cross bar by the goal keeper two minutes later as the action picked up offensively for both teams.
Despite the close shaves, neither team was able to break the deadlock in the first stanza.
At the resumption, both teams came out knowing that they needed to create more chances for their strikers.
Donovan Segree was very ambitious when he tried a long range effort that went miles away from the Charlie Smith goal in the 48th minute. JC looked more like the team we saw all season and was more confident passing the ball.
The Old Hope Road based school was looking more dangerous going forward and Charlie Smith did not have any answers. Flemmings gave his school the lead in the 60th minute when he intercepted a defensive header from Samuels, getting in ahead of Taylor to finish in an empty net.
Charlie Smith was trying long distance efforts that failed to trouble Dowdie in the JC goal.
Akeem Shackeleford who had a bad evening on the pitch was replaced by Ronaldo Brown in minute 66th.
Charlie Smith did look more purposeful going forward as the game wore on and they were creating some half chances.
Junior flemmings found some space again in the 73rd minute but his shot was well saved by the Charlie Smith custodian.
Charlie Smith levelled the score through McDonald with a brilliant shot from 26 yards that gave Dowdie no chance in minute 76th. The Charlie Smith supporters were going wild and the spirit of the team was lifted by the thunderous goal.
The equalizer changed the tempo of the game and it was a more even match. The referee signal five (5) minutes of stoppage time. Lennon Cameron was shown a second yellow card for a crunching tackle on a JC player.
Charlie Smith was reduced to ten players in the last minute of stoppage time.
Raffique Bryan put the champions in front for the second time in minute 96th minute when his powerful free kick from 28 yards deflected off a Charlie Smith defender and kissed the inside of the far post before going in, giving Taylor no chance.
The goal proved to be the winner as Jamaica College claimed their 26th overall Manning Cup crown and their second title of the schoolboy football season.
"We found a way, that it is what it is about, finding a way,whatever it takes, as long as it's legal on the football pitch. You see the free kick...a little bit of luck, that is what it takes sometimes in a final. I wasn't pleased with the first half but in the second half we found a rhythm. We were able to get a goal, a clever goal by Junior Flemmings to go ahead before the leveled the score.," JC coach Miguel Coley said.
"The finals is about winning and the Manning Cup means everything to us," he exclaimed
Jerome Waite was proud of his players despite the loss and praised their efforts in a memorable encounter.
"Charlie Smith has done extremely well, we didn't come out here and lay down and die. We came out and showed that we have some class...in the end when that one player who was ejected from the field that is where JC had the better of play," he said.
With two more finals to play, Jamaica College will now turn their attention to the Walker Cup finals on Thursday against a well rested St. Georges College at he Constant Spring Field.