Heartache for Village and Wolves in league finale
North Village 1
There was a double dose of disappointment at Devonshire Recreation Club with North Village Rams missing out on the Premier Division title and Wolves failing to avoid relegation.
Both sets of players cut forlorn figures as they trudged off the pitch, Wolves more so, having kept their end of the bargain by defeating Village, only to discover that it was not enough to preserve their top-flight status.
Village, who had to beat Wolves and hope Dandy Town misfired against Devonshire Cougars to clinch their ninth title, seemed surprisingly lacking in urgency despite the significance of yesterday's end of season encounter.
It mattered very little, however, with Town thrashing Cougars to clinch their second title in three seasons.
Ralph Bean, the Village coach, admitted his side could not afford to dwell on their bridesmaid's finish and would have to remotivate themselves for next weekend's FA Cup final, when they face the new champions at the National Sports Centre.
“[The FA Cup] is all we can look forward to now,” Bean said. “It's our only game left and we have to put all our efforts into that.
“The players should have it within themselves to put [the title disappointment] behind them. We always knew that there was no guarantee of winning the title today, regardless of what we did against Wolves.
“The league is done now and the FA Cup is a whole different entity. We have to move on now. I guess Town winning [against Cougars] offers a little bit of a consolation for us, but very little, because we didn't do our job today.”
Despite defeating Village, who had not lost since the first game of the new year, Wolves were left wondering what might have been had they displayed they same fight and attacking brio they showed against Village all season.
Mark Jennings, the Wolves coach, admitted as much before insisting that his side were capable of an immediate return to the Premier Division.
“We showed a lot of character today and if we had shown this earlier in the season then we would have been in a far better spot,” said Jennings whose side had to beat Village and hope Southampton Rangers lost at home against Somerset Trojans in order to stay up.
“I'm still proud of the players. They showed lots of effort today against a team who were still in the hunt for the title. We have to move forward from this and stay together as a unit. I think we can come straight back up if we work together.”
Jahron Dickinson, the Village striker, lobbed a one-on-one chance wide in the first minute, which seemed to set the tone for Village, who missed another scoring opportunity when Jahquan Smith-DeShield headed against the post from a corner.
In the 22nd minute, VJ Minors, the Wolves striker, opened the scoring with a well-taken, low, left-footed drive from just inside the box, moments before Smith DeShield, the Village danger man, limped off with an injury to be replaced by Pierre Smith.
Village's customary easy-on-the-eye play become increasingly more ragged in the second half, and they would have fallen further behind had it not been for Troy Hall's fine reflex save from Lamelle Paynter's defected close-range effort. Hall's afternoon then took a turn for the worse when the Village goalkeeper was dismissed after handling outside of box when attempting to block a shot from Minors, who was afforded a free run on goal by the sloppy Village defence.
Village pulled level in the 80th minute when Keishen Bean struck home a volley from 12 yards, but parity did not last long with Wolves restoring their advantage a minute later.
Paynter scored the winner after forcing his way through the heart of the Village backline to hand the home team a victory that, ultimately, meant very little once the news of Rangers' victory filtered through from Southampton Oval.