Captain fantastic: Reid again on target as Arnett Gardens edge Portmore United to book semi-final spot Featured

Arnett Gardens Fabian Reid (right) celebrates his all-important strike with Jaheim Thomas. Arnett Gardens Fabian Reid (right) celebrates his all-important strike with Jaheim Thomas.

As the famous English proverbs states “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

That’s the mindset of Arnett Gardens’s Head coach Xavier Gilbert, who is backing his team to not only overcome the Cavalier hurdle in the semi-final, but also to possibly go all the way in this season’s Wray and Nephew Jamaica Premier League.

Gilbert’s thoughts followed their 1-0 win over Portmore United in second-leg quarterfinal action, as Arnett Gardens wrapped up a 2-1 aggregate scoreline at Sabina Park on Monday.

Captain fantastic, Fabian Reid, was again the saviour, as he got the all-important strike in the 90th minute to break Portmore United’s heart and ensure the five-time champions remain on course for the final.

With the “Junglists” last title coming back in the 2016/17 season, Gilbert is optimistic about breaking the drought, but first they will have to get by last season’s beaten finalist, Cavalier in the semi-final, which kicks off on Sunday.

Arnett Gardens, who fell at the semi-final stage to eventual champions Mount Pleasant FA last year, lost 0-3 and drew 2-2 with Cavalier earlier this season.

“We knew it would only get tougher as we go on, and that's a given. But when the situation becomes difficult, that’s when we need to show our strength and stand up to it. So, yes, it will be another tough encounter against Cavalier, but we have to prepare mentally and physically for it, and then analyse how we're going to approach that game tactically,” Gilbert said in a post-game interview.

“But I'm happy that we got the win tonight. I thought we created some good opportunities, and we just didn't finish. We knew that it was just a matter of time, and we finally got it (the goal) in the end. I am happy for the players, I think they really deserve it, and it's a huge boost heading into, into the semi-final. They should be confident for that (semi-final) game, and we're just going to go back, recover and get ready for it,” he added.

It was a fairly decent, but goalless first half, as both teams evenly matched strides and had their fair share of chances to break the deadlock. Arnett Gardens initially looked more threatening in open play, but the best chance of the half fell to Portmore United in the 39th minute, when Alex Marshall’s glancing header sent Chevaughn Walsh through on goal, but the striker sporting the number nine jersey, couldn’t beat Eric Edwards, who left his line well to block the effort.

Prior to that, Chevany Willis’s seventh-minute freekick for Arnett Gardens, came back off the crossbar, while Keheim Dixon went on a break in the 10th minute, but was taken out by Portmore United’s custodian Benjamin Williams, who strayed well outside his area. Fortunately, the resulting freekick didn’t inflict any damage on the St Catherine team.

Portmore United started more purposeful on the resumption, and enjoyed a decent passage of play, but failed to create any meaningful chance to hurt Arnett Gardens.

Arnett Gardens eventually settled and should have opened the scoring through Dixon in the 54th minute. The former Clarendon College standout picked up a pass from Jaheim Thomas and had time and space to pick a spot from deep inside the danger area. However, his first opportunity came off the upright, while the second off the rebound, slammed into the underside of the crossbar.

Arnett Gardens again went close in the 66th minute, as Reid rose highest to deflect Philando Wing’s weighted corner kick towards goal, but Williams, diving full stretch to his right, got down well to parry.

Portmore responded six minutes later, but Walsh, arriving at the far post, failed to connect with Marshall’s cross.

From there, it was all Arnett Gardens, as they applied consistent pressure and had two quick looks at the target, but both Marlon Martin and substitute Shai Smith, misfired in quick succession.

However, the South St Andrew team inevitably got the goal their many fans waited for on the stroke of full time. Smith, with a cheeky play, orchestrated a tidy build up in a one-two combination play with another substitute Kimani Arbouine, before playing a perfect pass across the face of goal for Reid to finish his 12th goal of the season, and 86th in a dazzling JPL career, from close range.

With the defeat a tough one to take, Portmore United’s Head coach Phillip Williams rued their missed opportunities.

“I think we created enough chances but at the same time, I don’t think we were clinical enough to make the most of those chances. It was a game of fine margins and against a quality team like Arnett Gardens, you have to put away those chances, but the guys stuck to the tactical adjustments that we made, and we were in the game for a longer period it is just unfortunate that we didn’t put away our chances,” Williams reasoned.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 30 April 2024 06:21
Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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