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Cougars move top with away win at rivals St George’s

Referee Tashun Simons gave a controversial late penalty in title clash between St George’s and Devonshire Cougars (photograph by Ras Mykkal)

St George's 1 Devonshire Cougars 2

Devonshire Cougars enhanced their chances of claiming the league title as they moved to the top the Premier Division with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over St George’s at Wellington Oval on Saturday.

Following an early strike from the home team’s Jonté Smith, Che’Kai Casey equalised soon after with Domico Coddington scoring a controversial late penalty for Cougars to secure the three points.

The big cats gained sweet revenge over Colts, after the latter had bundled them out of the FA Cup last week by an identical scoreline, a fact not lost on Cougars’ coach Kwame Steede.

“It’s a massive victory,” said Steede following the match. “We came down here with a plan. We stuck to the plan and that’s the result we got. It was a bitter loss for us last week. I thought we created way more chances last week to win the game.

“This week we came down here and didn’t really give up any chances, so we always had a platform to go out and win the game.

“We’ve been down every time we’ve played them, but that doesn’t worry us. That’s where we show our character and we’ve shown our character in coming back except for the last game.”

Smith made certain Cougars would again have to overcome a deficit, when he both initiated and finished a decisive attacking manoeuvre in the fifth minute.

After gaining possession midway in the Cougars half Smith stretched the defence with a ball out wide to the left to Kashe Hall. And, as Hall drew away defenders, Smith darted into the penalty area where Hall found him with the perfect pass for Smith to finish in the right corner.

St George’s almost doubled their advantage in the 12th minute after an overlapping run down the right side by Jarazinho Basset resulted in him crossing into the middle for Blaiz Hall to thunder a header goalward, only for Tahj Bell to keep it from crossing the goalline with a diving save to his left.

With both teams in attack mode, the east enders were not precluded from danger and their advantage was erased in the 17th minute after some poor defending.

An innocuous, low driven free-kick from near midfield was somehow allowed to roll deep into the penalty area, where Caisey applied a simple flick of his right foot and found the right corner of the goal.

Level at the break and having chosen to play against the wind in the first half, St George’s embarked on the second half with a favourable south-easterly breeze.

But Mother Nature had other ideas as not only did she bring rain to dampen the proceedings, but enhanced winds towards the south-west, which dramatically helped Cougars going forward while forcing St George’s to battle the elements as well as their opponents.

“The plan was, going against the wind, to absorb and then have chances in the second half, especially going with the wind, to have shots,” said St George’s coach Jarreau Hayward. “But, as soon as we came out, the wind was going in the opposite direction even more fiercely and it was difficult.

“That’s why I think we deserved three points today, because we fought Mother Nature, we fought the elements, we fought the opponents and were just unlucky.”

The main item of misfortune alluded to by Hayward was the 83rd minute decision by referee Tashun Simons to award a penalty for a supposed foul on Caisey by Manoj Paynter inside the box when it looked more like friendly fire.

Coddington converted down the middle past Jahquil Hill, who dived left, with the goal triggering heightened tensions in the home camp, resulting in red cards being shown after the match to Hill and unused substitute Jelani Carlington.

“I thought that, given our performance that we deserved three points or at least a tie,” Hayward said. “I think a loss was really harsh.

“If you call a penalty, for me you have to be certain and we are almost certain that their player tackled his own player and for us to get a penalty called against us is a little bit difficult. But being a referee is a hard job and we’re not going to fault him for it, but it’s difficult to lose like that.”

The result allowed Devonshire to assume top spot in the Premier Division, one point ahead of St George’s, with PHC two back and North Village three behind.

Asked if he was hopeful of some help from PHC and North Village’s Sunday opponents, X-Roads and Dandy Town, to aid in keeping them atop the standings, Steede repelled any such notion.

“We’re not looking for any help,” Steede said. “It’s all about us, doing what we need to do and let everybody else play their games. We just need to do what we have to do and that’s what it is.”

Undismayed by the defeat, Hayward was keen to resume the chase for a title that had eluded the club throughout its footballing history.

“It’s a title race,” said Hayward. “One of the best title races I’ve seen in my lifetime in Bermuda. We’re up for it. We’re still in the race and not out of it by any stretch.

“There’s still a long way to go and we’re just going to recoup - we had a couple of knocks today - and train well.”

With Hill and unused substitute Jelani Carlington both shown red cards at the end of the game for voicing their displeasure toward Simons and with captain Kashe Hall and holding midfielder Cameron Neal both forced off with injuries, Hayward may well have to dig into the reserves for club’s the next outing at homr to Somerset Trojans next Saturday


St George’s Colts: Smith 5.

Devonshire Cougars: Che’Kai Caisey 17, Coddington 83 (pen).

St George's Colts (4-1-4-1): J Hill 5 – N Paynter 6, D Signor 6, T Burgess 6, M Paynter 6 – C Neal 6 (sub: E Signor, 82 min) –J Basset 5 (sub: L Dill, 70 6), B Hall 7, K Hall 6 (sub: J Burgess, 41 6), M Trott 6 – J Smith 7. Substitutes not used: J Carlington, S Blair-Paynter, M Simmons, C Burns. Booked: Trott. Sent off: Hill, Carlington.

Devonshire Cougars (4-1-4-1): T Bell 6 – J Thomas 6, Z White 6, N Furbert 6, Che‘Kai Caisey 7 (sub: J Fox, 87) – J Brimmer 6 -- C Caisey 6, Z Simmons 6, D Daniels 6 (sub: L Simmons, 69 6), T Tucker 6 – D Coddington 7. Substitutes not used: J Furbert-Wade, L Millett, K Steede, N Simmons, J Wade. Booked: Brimmer, Coddington, Simmons.

Referee: T Simons.

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Published February 20, 2023 at 7:40 am (Updated February 20, 2023 at 7:40 am)

Cougars move top with away win at rivals St George’s

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