Cougars edge cagey encounter
Devonshire Cougars earned Omar Butterfield his first trophy at the helm with a narrow victory over PHC Zebras in the Dudley Eve Trophy at Devonshire Recreation Club yesterday.
In a hard-fought match that could have gone either way, Jawonday Smith's controversial goal in the 73rd minute proved to be the difference for Cougars.
A large crowd came out on Remembrance Day to attend the match which offered many engaging prospects, with both teams having new coaches this season, Butterfield at Cougars and Scott Morton at Zebras.
PHC were coming into the match as the defending champions and were hoping to retain their trophy, while Cougars were aiming to win it for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
With both teams coming off the back of impressive wins last weekend in the league, Cougars beating Flanagan's Onions 3-1 and Zebras beating Boulevard 3-0, it seemed a high-scoring game could be on the cards.
However, the anticipated goal fest never really materialised. Maybe this was because both teams had a large amount of youngsters in their squad, and they were perhaps slightly overawed by the grand occasion initially.
Neither team could get a foothold in the first half and so it looked like a set piece would be the most likely source of a goal.
First, Cougars were awarded a free kick in the tenth minute, that was partially cleared and the ball fell to Zari Simmons, the Cougars' midfielder, but he put his shot over the top of the crossbar. Two minutes later, Zebras were awarded a free kick that was taken by Cecoy Robinson. Rakeem DeShields got his head onto the ball but was not fully in control of it and his effort flew just inches over the bar.
From another set piece, Simmons floated in a dangerous looking free kick that none of his team-mates could get a touch too. Both teams almost scored just before the interval, with Tre Ming, the Zebras midfielder, heading over the bar from a corner and Charmari Burns, the Cougars forward, shooting straight at Hunt right on the stroke of half-time.
Cougars made a substitution right at the beginning of the second half with young Nyrobi Carmichael coming on for Franks, but it was Zebras who actually came out fired up in the second half.
Zebras began to string passes together and produce something more reminiscent of the quality football that they are known for. Within the first five minutes of the second half, Mahzie Burchall, the Zebras' winger, had a shot saved by Kioshi Trott, the Cougars' goalkeeper. Then Trott had to pull off two incredible reflex saves in succession when it looked certain that Zebras would score.
A good piece of build-up play between Zebras' defenders, Naeem Griffith and Darren Usher, culminated in Usher putting in a nice cross that deserved an appropriate finish, but Burchall was not able to connect cleanly with the ball.
Burchall was then booked a few minutes later for a foul. Zebras had two more good chances to go in front. After the referee deemed that Trott, the Cougars goalkeeper, had taken longer than six seconds to release the ball, he awarded a free kick to PHC that Robinson, their captain, fired against the Cougars' wall. Then, DeShields headed over a Jonathan Ball cross.
PHC had controlled most of the second half and had created a host of chances, but it would be Cougars who would take the lead in the 73rd minute.
Cougars' midfielder, Jawonday Smith, worked his way into the box and got a shot off that went into the goal from an angle. Before the Cougars players could celebrate, the referee ruled that it was not a goal, as it appeared as Hunt, the Zebras goalkeeper, had actually saved the ball on the line.
The Cougars players believed that Hunt had carried the ball over the line and even the linesmen seemed to signal that it was a goal. To get clarification, the referee went and consulted with his linesmen, and after five minutes or so, he returned and awarded the goal to Cougars much to the frustration of Zebras.
With the lead at last, Cougars finally began to play their best football. However, Zebras almost found an equaliser. Trott took too long with his goal kick and the referee penalised him by awarding Zebras a free kick, but Burchall's free kick went straight into the Cougars wall.
Next, Zebras substitute, Jaavaid Warren Smith, sped to the byline and hooked in a cross but none of his team-mates were able to apply a touch.
At the end of the 90 minutes, the referee signalled for a remarkable seven minutes of injury time. Zebras had a few more chances to score from set pieces but once again, they could not find the route to goal.
Cougars then had an opportunity to double their lead from a quick breakaway, but substitute Cashun Brangman was hauled down before he could get his shot off. Right at the death, Zebras almost found the goal they required, but Ball's shot was cleared off the line. In the 94th minute Cougars' Mikkiel Thomas was dismissed for a second bookable offence, although Butterfield's men held firm to claim the title.