MONTEGO BAY, St James — Arnett Gardens' chances of a place in the End-of-Round Final of the Red Stripe Premier League hangs in the balance after they were beaten 1-0 by a surging Montego Bay United (MBU) in their 10th-round game at Montego Bay Sports Complex on Sunday.
After drawing against Savannah SC in the previous round and with wins for Boys' Town and Portmore on Sunday, Arnett dropped to fourth place on 17 points, and with one game to go before the round ends, they needed help to make it to the incentive final.
MBU continued their surge as a 77th-minute header from substitute Kemiro James extended their unbeaten run to four games under new coach Dr Dean Weatherly. They also jumped two places to seventh on 13 points.
The possible failure to get to the round final was not a major concern for Arnett Gardens' coach Paul 'Tegat' Davis, however, after their third defeat on Sunday.
"Winning the Premier League is still the overall aim for us," Davis told the Jamaica Observer. "... Not making the End-of-Round Final is really not that important right now."
Davis blamed the goal against them on "a lapse in concentration," saying James was left "unmarked."
Weatherly was, however, singing the praises of his team, saying they were "starting to believe in themselves... they have the ability, but we're now showing more patience, especially when we have the ball and we are not giving it away as we used to do".
Weatherly said Haitian-born Bahamian striker Lesly St Fleur, who troubled the Arnett defence all evening, made a lot of difference, pointing to the free kick he earned in the vicinity of the corner flag which led to the goal.
St Fleur's darting runs down the middle kept the Arnett defence off balance, but the home team failed to capitalise on their chances.
James, who replaced Keneil Kirlew seven minutes earlier, was left unattended on the 18-yard box and headed the ball out of the reach of the goalkeeper.
He could have made the points safe seven minutes later, but he used his knee to lift the ball over the bar.
There were several other closes chances in the half. St Fleur came the closest when he scooped a bal over the crossbar from three yards, with no Arnett players even close to him, while Jonathon Williams hit the crossbar for Arnett a minute later.
Arnett's goalkeeper Damion Hyatt, who appeared to have issues with his physical fitness during the game, made one great save in the 67th to deny St Fleur, using his foot to get the ball away after the Montego Bay striker got through the defence.
MBU got the best chances in the first half that got off to a slow start, with Guyanese Shawn Beveney missing the crossbar by inches in the 18th, while Cordel Simpson abandoned his defensive duties with a brilliant solo effort that was stopped just short in the Arnett 18 box.