Photo: Shavar Thomas has guided Portmore United to their third consecutive Red Stripe Premier League final in his first season in charge. He will be looking to get by Donovan Duckie and his marauding Waterhouse team to make it third time lucky in the final at the National Stadium tonight. Match time is 8:35pm.
The stage is set for what is said to be the 'Clash of the Titans', as two local football powerhouses tussle-up inside the National Stadium for Red Stripe Premier League supremacy. With the 21st staging of the FIFA World Cup on our heels can Waterhouse FC and Portmore United replicate that spectacle of the 1966 World Cup finals were England won their first and only World Cup Trophy in an epic 4-2 win in extra-time over West Germany?
Many-time champions Portmore United has played some attractive and entertaining football, so good was it that they stood at the apex of the table for several weeks. Even when they where on CFU club duties overseas those below were unable to surpass them. On the contrary their opposite number Waterhouse is poised to deliver one of the biggest comebacks in the history of local football. Rallying from 10th in a 12 teams table to the finals is breathtaking, many supporters are still pinching themselves and can't believe they have not only saved relegation but have the opportunity to lift the coveted title.
FROM THE JAWS OF RELEGATION
In the 2015/2016 season Waterhouse only managed to shrug off relegation with a handsome win over arch-rivals Boys Town FC. The following season was similar, the only thing is that they managed to save relegation from the penultimate match. After changing a few coaches things were still the same as it was just 'paper over cracks'.
After 7 points from 8 games the fans made their intentions clear that they wanted back the well traveled, pragmatic Donovan Duckie for a second stint at the club. Duckie is touted as local football's Moses, who is considered a "miracle worker", one who has led several teams across the 'Red Sea'. He had placed Montego United in pole position to win the 2013/14 RSPL title which they did. He then went on to pull Humble Lion from the jaws of relegation to semi finalists, in so doing he pocketed the million dollars purse for accumulating the most points.
The Ex-army man is no stranger to big games, he won the Super League with Benfica (St. Ann) and St George's FC (Portland).
Duckie took over at Waterhouse in mid-November playing his first game in charge away to his old task master Mobay United. They lost that game 1-0 in a well played battle. He steadied the rocky ship from there on racking up 45 points from a possible 75. With 12 convincing victories, 9 hard fought drawn games and 4 losses which saw him earning coach of the month in January along the way.
Duckie transformed the players into playing attractive football and adopting to his philosophy while believing in themselves. Duckie's last four games saw him getting the upper hand over Ricardo Gardener of Harbour View and his old nemesis Jerome Waite of Arnett Gardens, after throwing two knock out punches in the quarter finals and semi finals.
In the quarter finals Keithy Simpson, Kemar Beckford and Cardel Benbow got the goals in a two way tie 1-0 and 2-1 respectively. In the semi finals Tremaine Stewart scored in a 1-0 fist leg win and Benbow and Stewart were the scorers in a 2-1 win in the second leg. Star player Benbow is fit for the finals after limping off in the quarter finals and the semi finals. For Duckie to walk away a hero, much of the weight will rest on the solid back five of goalkeeper Diego Haughton, central defenders Shawn Lawes, Nicholy Findlayson, and wing backs Mark Miller and Ricardo Thomas.
The front three of Stewart, Beckford and Benbow should be a thorn in Portmore's defence. With the semi finals done and dusted, can Duckie and his charge go one step further?
THREE TIMES IS A CHARM
There will be a new champion when the 2017-2018 Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) ends. But who will it be? Former champions Portmore United are in their 3rd straight finals and would feel disappointed if they don't go all the way for yet another season. Last season, Portmore sat at the top of the league for almost the entire season and then faltered to current champions Arnett Gardens. However the young and vibrant Shavar Thomas who have been spearheading the Portmore battalion is confident that they will be crowned champions come Monday night.
Javon East was Portmore's semi-final hero as he scored two goals and ran Cavalier SC to shreds to create the third goal for Jamie Lynch in a 3-0 win at The Spanish Town Prison Oval. East led from the front and summed up a Portmore performance full of character and commitment.
Cavalier were considered as the underdogs after being held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of this semi-final and did not offer much to nullify a brilliant performance from Portmore.
Portmore United were a little lackluster in the first leg, but were widely expected to go on to wrap up the tie at Prison Oval, although Thomas was concerned his team had been too timid. He won the tactical battle at Prison Oval adopting a lop-sided 3-3-2-2, rather than the four at the back they had always played since the start of the season.
Portmore played last Sunday's game without their star player Maleeque Foster who was injured in the first leg semi finals at Stadium East. However, he is said to be fit and will be featured in the finals.
Two geniuses at their craft, who will get their tactics right? Your guess is as good as mine, one thing is promised to the fans is a mouth watering spectacle with players parading their skills up and down the pitch. Game time 8:35 pm at the National Stadium.