Rangers triumph in title decider
Southampton Rangers were crowned First Division champions after Quadir Maynard’s goal in the first minute of stoppage time gave them a 3-2 victory over previously unbeaten Somerset Eagles at White Hill Field.
One of the biggest league crowds of the season turned out to watch the title decider between the two promoted teams, who were separated by just one point.
Rangers held a 1-0 lead at the half courtesy of Cardel Henry’s goal in the 21st minute and when captain Donte Brangman doubled the lead seven minutes into the second half after chipping his left-footed shot into the far corner, it looked like being a comfortable win for Rangers.
However, Eagles, who needed a victory to win the title, showed tremendous fight as they came back with two goals in the space of 11 minutes midway through the second half. Dane Simmons gave them hope when he scored in the 59th minute after a ball into the box from a free kick near the halfway line was not cleared by the Rangers defence. Simmons pounced on the loose ball and curled his shot inside’s goalkeeper Ajai Daniels’s right-hand post.
An own goal by Rangers made it 2-2 in the 70th minute when defender Keedai Astwood’s back-pass to his goalkeeper was too strong and too high, leaving Daniels stranded as the pass sailed over his head and went in off the far post.
Rangers had an effort ruled out just two minutes later when a shot from Ezekiel Stoneham from outside the box was parried by the diving Lorenzo Lambert before Jarazinho Bassett followed up to force the rebound over the line. However, he was blown down for a foul on Lambert as Eagles were let off.
Lambert was kept busy in the Eagles goal in the closing minutes as Rangers piled on the pressure in search of the winning goal. The goalkeeper tipped the ball over the crossbar from a dangerous cross into the box by Astwood after a Darius Cox free kick.
Bassett then poked a shot against the near post as Rangers went close again, looking the more likely to score a late winner.
The dramatic finish came when a run down the right flank by Maynard saw him drive a low shot inside the far corner. Maynard took off his shirt as he raced away to celebrate in front of the Rangers fans on the northern bank, before getting a yellow card from referee Martin Wyer.
No doubt Maynard would say the booking was worth it, the winning goal preventing Eagles from duplicating Rangers’ feat last season of going unbeaten in the league.
“We were pushing for that win, even if we had drawn the game we still would have won the league,” said Maynard, as the Gombeys provided some post-match entertainment in the background.
“We wanted the three points and to come up here and show why we deserve to be in the top flight. In the last minute I beat two players and secured it for us. Initially, I was looking for a pass but nobody was there and I had to improvise and score the goal.
“It was a tough game, Eagles put up a good fight, but in the end we were just the better team. all-round. We left it late but we got the job done and I’m happy about that.”
Maynard secured promotion with Young Men’s Social Club two seasons ago, but opted to stay in the First Division with Rangers last season, only to be denied a second straight promotion when Rangers finished in third place, just two points behind BAA and Paget Lions. Now he is delighted to finally secure a second promotion in three seasons.
“Third time lucky for me and next year I will be playing top flight football,” he said. “I’m happy for that new challenge; it was a good three years in the First Division, but it is time to go up now.
“No regrets about leaving Social Club or staying with Rangers this season, they were the right decisions. We should have gone up last year but we’re up there now and hopefully we can stay up there and fight.”
Maynard estimates that the crowd compared with any Premier Division turnout this season, with fans from both communities coming out to support their teams.
“Premier or First Division, this is one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen all year,” he said.
“It’s exciting when crowds come out, we need that back in football in Bermuda. We need people to support football; that’s when we play better football.”
In the other First Division matches. St George’s pipped Hamilton Parish for the third spot after Parish were held to a 2-2 draw by Young Men’s Social Club at Police Field. Giovanni Saltus gave Parish the lead in the 25th minute before Kneiko Richardson doubled the lead in the 40th minute.
Derek Ricketts pulled one back for Social Club in first-half stoppage time before Shae Butterfield earned them a point with the equaliser in the 87th minute. St George’s beat Vasco da Gama 4-0 at Wellington Oval to finish in third place after Sage Paynter led the scoring with two goals.
Jahki Brangman opened the scoring in the 30th minute before Paynter made it 2-0 in the 57th. Micah Mendes converted a 72nd minute penalty to all but seal the win before Paynter made certain of the points when he netted his second in the 80th minute.
Devonshire Colts beat Wolves 4-1 at Malabar Field. Diego Richardson gave Colts the lead in the eleventh minute before Daunte Woods levelled the score on the half-hour mark. Jan-Hanank Hein put Colts back in front three minutes later before Michael Williams converted a 40th minute penalty to make it 3-1. Enrique Wilkin closed out the scoring for Colts in the 72nd minute.