Cougars roar back to dethrone Town in thrilling finale
Devonshire Cougars 2 Dandy Town 1
High jumper-turned footballer, Elisha Darrell was Devonshire Cougars’ hero in yesterday’s Dudley Eve Trophy final when he netted a dramatic late winner to dethrone cup holders Dandy Town.
The 20-year-old substitute scored just a few feet from where he used to perform in the high jump, at the northern end at the National Stadium.
The goal completed a sensational comeback for Cougars as they scored two goals in the last five minutes to deny Dandy Town a record eleventh Dudley Eve Trophy title.
Town, down to ten men after the 71st minute sending-off of Azende Furbert for a second booking, took a surprise lead eight minutes later through a penalty by captain Angelo Simmons, one of their second-half substitutes after an injury prevented him from starting.
Cougars had their own setbacks, with their coach Vance Brown in the hospital and then two players, goalkeeper Ajai Daniels and defender Zekiro White, going down with injuries in the first half.
White was replaced in the 32nd minute with a leg injury with Daniels limping on with an Achilles injury until the 63rd minute when he had another setback and was finally replaced. Drewonde Bascome was also missing through injury.
“Today was about the community, for coach Vance and our players who weren’t here with us, our fallen soldiers,” said assistant coach Mark Mills, who took over from Brown.
“Today was about restoring the pride in our community and letting us know that Cougars are a big team.
“I was listening to talk shows and reading papers about Dandy Town being the favourites but it’s all about belief, heart and character on the day.”
Cougars, who last won the Dudley Eve Trophy in 2016-17, had some good chances in the first half despite Daniels’s injury in the 20th minute from a 50-50 challenge with Cecoy Robinson.
White’s injury seven minutes later forced Cougars into their first substitution, with Darren Williams replacing him.
Cougars still looked the more threatening, with Domico Coddington having a shot blocked by goalkeeper Jaiden Manders.
Cougars had another good opportunity to break the deadlock three minutes into the second half when fullback Trey Tucker’s run into the box down the right set up Lejaun Simmons who lifted his effort over the bar.
In a bid to get a grip on the game, Town made a double substitution, bringing on Simmons and Jahtino Richardson-Martin for winger Treshun Smith and midfielder Lynn Emery.
Moments later, Daniels needed treatment again for his injury, this time the decision was made to replace him with Kioshi Trott.
“He’s a warrior and didn’t want to come off,” Mills said. “He was going through the pain and it got unbearable after halftime so we had to replace him.
“Luckily it didn’t cost us and we had Kioshi, an able back-up, come on.”
Town had a setback of their own when Furbert received a second yellow card for a foul. From the resulting free kick on the right side, the ball was headed back towards the near post where Coddington’s shot was blocked by Manders.
Cougars continued to dominate, but it was Town who broke the deadlock when Trey Tucker handled inside the box and Angelo Simmons stepped up to convert the spot-kick.
However, Cougars’ fighting spirit brought a dramatic turnaround.
Lejaun Simmons equalised six minutes later after Zari Simmons’s flick-on put him clear inside the box before he drove a low shot past the goalkeeper to level the score.
With extra time looming, substitute Darrell pounced on a rebound inside the box to score the 87th minute winner from close range.
“It feels great, it’s been a tough season for me, but I was in a perfect position and had a great chance,” Darrell said.
“I wanted to go in the starting blocks’ for my [goal] celebration, but emotions took over and I just ran to the crowd and celebrated.
“Town are looking like a good side this year, like they are challenging for the league. But I feel like we’re up there too, we just have to believe in ourselves. Today we showed heart.”
Darrell dedicated his winning goal to another talented track athlete, Clevonte Lodge-Bean, 18, who died last weekend in a bike crash.
“I told myself I would do it for Clevonte,” he added. “It’s sad to see him go like that, he had so much promise.”
Devonshire Cougars: L Simmons 85, Darrell 87
Dandy Town: A Simmons 79 pen
Devonshire Cougars (4-3-3): A Daniels (sub: K Trott, 63min) — T Tucker, Zeko White, Zekiro White (sub: D Williams, 32), L Millett — C Maybury, Chris Caisey, Z Simmons — Che-kai Caisey (sub: E Darrell, 81), L Simmons, D Coddington. Substitutes not used: M Steede, A Cannonier, M Battersbee, C Albouy, M Steede, N Simmons. Booked: Che-kai Caisey.
Dandy Town (4-3-3): J Manders — E Blankendal, E Trott, J Bean-Lindo, D Jones — J Chapman, A Furbert, L Emery (sub: J Richardson-Martin, 58) — C Robinson, J Swan (sub: K Davis, 83), T Smith (sub: A Simmons, 58). Substitutes not used: T Webb, N Carmichael, M Mello-Cann, D Blankendal, S Darrell, J Rosser. Booked: Bean-Lindo, Furbert, Blankendal. Sent off: Furbert.
Referee: A Francis.