Photo: Excelsior High captain, Chrstopher Thorpe turns away from St. Georges College defender Matthew Wilson during their Manning Cup encounter at Winchester Park on Friday. Excelsior High won the game 1-0 to assume sole leadership of Group A.
It was a very emotional afternoon on Friday, at Winchester Park, where St. Georges College met Excelsior High school in the Manning Cup for the very first time since the passing of Dominic James and when the dust settled at the end of 90 gruelling minutes, the visitors managed to snatch all three points from a narrow one nil win.
A 17th minute penalty scored by Thorne Buchanan was enough to decide the contest between two evenly matched teams in a keen and engaging contest.
With the second half of the first encounter between the teams still yet to be played, a lot was riding on the game on Friday as STGC led the zone by two points and had a chance to pull clear of their main rivals in the hunt for group honours.
A second minute shot on target from new Captain Alex Marshall signalled the intentions of the home team but a solid grab from Romario Palma in the Excelsior goal suggested that it would not be an easy day for STGC.
Excelsior also made their intentions know when Kimani Decombre whistled a shot just over the crossbar a few minutes later.
Tyane Wilson and Christopher Thorpe cut open the STGC defence with ease shortly after and it took a desperate dive from John Wilson to push the ball around the post for a corner kick to Excelsior.
When Marshall fed in Akeem Robotham shortly after, the lively forward saw his top poked effort gobbled up by the alert Palma at his near post.
With the STGC defenders allowing them time and space to place, Excelsior took full advantage and Raewin Senior provided a neat pass into Tyane Wilson who was brought down by the advancing STGC custodian John Wilson. A yellow card was shown to goal keeper for the foul before Buchanan held his nerve to place the ball in the corner of the goal.
But the home team came roaring back at the visitors and it took a timely interception from Deongelo Campbell to deny Marshall after a good team move by STGC.
Robotham was found in space at the top of the box from the subsequent corner kick but his curling effort was well held by Palma yet again.
Marshall and Robotham were at the centre of everything good for STGC but Buchanan should have doubled his and his team’s tally on the half hour mark when Thorpe found him with the perfect pass from the right side of the box. A lazy effort saw the ball bounce off the shin of Buchanan and over the bar from six yards.
It was as close as either team would come for the remainder of the half until Robotham curled a free kick from the edge of the area into the safe arms of Palma in added time at the end of the first stanza.
A lively start to the second half saw both teams come close in the first ten minutes after the break without any change to the score line.
With a desperate need for something to change, Neville Bell introduced the tricky Akiki Jackson who immediately went to work down the left side. Most of the home fans thought he had brought his team level after his mazy run took him past two defenders inside the box, but his shot was into the side netting and not inside the goal.
Both coaches made use of the changes available as both teams ran themselves ragged on a hot and breezy afternoon.
Ryan Spence who was a second half substitute for Excelsior ran almost the length of the STGC half with the ball at his feet and after setting up himself on his preferred left foot, shot high over the bar from the edge of the area, with less than ten minutes left in the game.
Voshawn Williams also had a chance to kill off the game as a contest just moments after, when a horrible clearance from Wilson fell at this feet, but his beautiful curler from distance went inches wide of the empty goal with the entire Excelsior bench already out on the field celebrating a second goal.
STGC were desperate for a moment of inspiration late on but it did not come as Excelsior held on for a deserved victory. The win took Excelsior to 16 points, one above STGC who they will face again shortly with just 45 minutes to settle the aborted contest, a game they led 2-1, at the time.
“I am very happy with the overall team performance. We were very focused, we expected a tough game from St. Georges… end to end action. We stood firm. I am very happy defensively because they didn’t get many looks (at goal) and they didn’t break our defensive shape down, so I am very happy with that,” said an elated Shavar Thomas.
STGC assistant coach Marcel Gayle admitted that his team came up short on the day. “They came fast and tried to stop us from playing, they were more business-like than us today. It was just one of those days. They are still kids, they will get it right some days but today was one of those days we didn’t get it right. It was just a bad day today, we dropped three points, we will just have to focus on the next fixture.”
St. Georges College on 15 points, will next face Greter Portmore High who has 13 points while Excelsior will next face Tivoli who has only six points and nothing left to play for.