Foster hat-trick drives Reno to Premier League play-offs
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Craig Foster scored a hat-trick at Jarrett Park on Sunday evening to power Reno FC to a historic Jamaica Football Federation's Captain's Bakery and Grill/Charley's JB Rums Western Confederation Super League title, winning the return-leg 3-2 against Granville United for a 5-3 aggregate.
The red-hot Foster was responsible for all five goals scored by Reno FC in both legs after he had led the Westmoreland club to a 2-1 first-leg victory at Frome the previous Sunday.
Last Sunday, Foster scored in the 14th minute to equalise after Granville went ahead in the sixth minute through a David Gillard penalty kick. He then scored in the 63rd and 78th minutes when the Granville United team and coaching staff appeared to have run out of ideas to give Reno FC a big lead.
Rohan Bernard's 87th-minute goal reduced the lead on the day to a single goal, but the St James club could not get any closer.
With the victory, Reno FC, who were losers in last season's final to Wadadah FC, have qualified for the four-team Premier League play-offs that get underway this coming weekend.
It was the first time a team had won both the mid-season, and overall titles in the same season and Godfrey Drummond, the Reno FC coach told the Jamaica Observer they were accustomed to creating history: "Reno was the first rural team to win back-to-back Premier League titles and we always create firsts," he said.
Despite leading by one goal from the first leg, Drummond said his players never thought it was a "done deal", keeping in mind they had led on the first leg last year, but lost in Montego Bay in the return leg so they were very wary of the possibilities.
Drummond, who had replaced Michael Graham as coach late in the season, said they knew they would have to work hard against a Granville United team. "We knew they would never give up and would come at us, so we knew we couldn't try to defend the lead, but had to go out and try to score goals," he said.
On a slippery, muddy field that absorbed hours of rain in the week leading up to the game, and even on Sunday when a heavy mid-afternoon downpour pushed back the kick-off time by 30 minutes, the teams combined for a close and at times overly physical battle.
The game was held up for 10 minutes in the second half after the Reno goalkeeper, Dennis Taylor was knocked out in a goal-mouth melee. He was allowed to continue after he was initially taken off the field on a stretcher.
Granville United got the perfect start when a Reno FC defender inadvertently handled the ball in his area, and Gillard buried the penalty kick to bring his team level 2-2 on aggregate scores.
It took all of eight minutes for Reno FC to respond, and after the Granville United goalkeeper Zavhia Hutchinson failed to hold on to a shot from Delano Rankine, Foster curled the rebound from the left side, off the far post.
Foster should have scored again in the 21st minute, but he missed the near left post by inches with Hutchinson at his mercy and most of the goal wide open. Left back Junior Neal created the chance when he dribbled past two Granville players before passing the ball to Foster on the inside, but the latter dragged the ball wide.
Taylor did well in the 34th minute to block a full-blooded drive from Granville United's Gillard from close range to keep the scores tied going into the break.
After a spirited first half, Granville United allowed Reno FC too much space and time with the ball in the second period and paid for this after Denmark Gillings, who replaced Rankine in the 62nd minute, combined with Foster to take the game and title away from them.