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PHC usher in 11th Cup final triumph

Stars in stripes: PHC, including Zebra mascot, celebrate extending their FA Cup final record to 11 wins after beating North Village at the National Stadium (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Full back Daren Usher was an unlikely hero for PHC Zebras after his goal seven minutes into the second period of extra time finally broke the stalemate in the FA Cup final to give the Zebras a 1-0 win over North Village and an 11th title.

Usher pushed forward from right back as PHC sought a late winner and stroked the ball past Tahj Bell in the North Village goal, setting off scenes of celebration as PHC knew victory was near with just eight minutes remaining. “Unbelievable, I never thought it would happen, it’s very special,” said the 21-year-old whose only other goal this season was also a late winner, against Dandy Town in a league game at St John’s Field back in December.

“This is the most memorable goal, of course. It was a slight deflection and the ‘keeper saw it late.

“The coach wants the full backs to push forward more and I’m glad it’s working out for us with full backs scoring winners. It was a great match, North Village definitely put up a fight, they did not make it easy for us.”

PHC, now with two more overall victories than Village and Somerset Trojans, missed a first-half penalty when Bell saved captain Cecoy Robinson’s spot kick. Both teams had periods of pressure but could not find the back of the net until Usher’s late strike gave them victory in a final at the third attempt this season. Coach Scott Morton had a bucket of iced water dumped on him as he was caught off-guard savouring his first trophy with the club.

“I’m kind of relieved, the players have worked so hard this season and I saw the belief in them again,” Morton said. “What I appreciate is the game Village brought to us. I love those battles, it makes it more enjoyable, especially when you get the positive outcome.”

Morton, whose PDL team also missed a penalty in their earlier KO final defeat by Devonshire Colts, said he was not too worried about Robinson’s penalty miss midway through the first half.

“If we’re not creating opportunities then I get worried, but if we’re getting opportunities then I feel comfortable that it is going to get better for us and fortunately it did,” he said.

“This win is mainly for the players and the fans. They see the amount of work we put in this season and been in other finals, so this is reward for them.”

The Village players, hoping to join PHC on ten wins, looked dejected at the end. Defender Jalen Harvey was shown a red card by referee Garic Swainson for foul and abusive language after the final whistle.

“I’m disappointed, I just think we didn’t create enough chances in the extra time period and in the game itself,” coach Devarr Boyles said. “It’s all about scoring and we didn’t score today. If you don’t score you don’t win.”