EXCELSIOR High put in a largely listless performance but still managed a 1-0 win over visiting Cumberland High in the ISSA/LIME Manning Cup Group B match at the Courtney Walsh Oval on Mountain View Avenue yesterday.
Colorado Murray got the goal for the home team in the first minute of stoppage time with a powerfully struck 25-yard effort.
The win avenged a 1-2 reverse in the fifth round for the Leebert Halliman-coached team, who remain atop the group with 19 points. Cumberland (seven points) are out of contention for the second round.
Halliman told reporters after yesterday's win that his team "should have scored from earlier in the match because there were several chances" to do so.
Cumberland's coach Wayne Frazer was painfully disappointed with the loss.
"I can tell you that Excelsior escaped today. We came for it, and the boys fought for it, but we gave up an easy goal in the end," a distraught Frazer told the Jamaica Observer.
Cumberland, the only team to have beaten the former champions this season, comfortably kept out Excelsior in the first half, despite the hosts having the majority of possession.
The second half was generally the same with Excelsior dominating possession and missing a few chances late in the encounter.
The pressure finally told when Murray latched onto an inadequate defensive clearance and drilled home a right-footer.
Norman Manley High (17 points) stayed on the heels of Excelsior after a 1-0 win over last-placed Haile Selassie High. There was also a 1-0 win for St Jago High (16 points) over Waterford High (five).
In Group A, Hydel High (22) virtually sealed top spot and a place in the Walker Cup KO following a 1-0 victory over Ascot High (17 points). Hydel have a healthy goal difference advantage over their closest rivals with only one match remaining.
Former winners Calabar High (19 points) maintained an outside chance of catching Hydel by beating Edith Dalton James High 2-0, while Jonathan Grant High beat fellow strugglers St Andrew Technical 3-1.
Jamaica College (24 points) remained the only team with a flawless win record following their 2-0 defeat of second-placed Bridgeport High (19) in Group E.
Jose Marti Technical joined Bridgeport on 19 points after a 6-0 thrashing of winless Tivoli Gardens High, while St Andrew College defeated Ardenne High 1-0 in the battle of the out-of-contention teams.
Holy Trinity High, who have already tied up Group G, soared to 25 points from nine matches following their 2-1 win at St Mary's College (six).
Trench Town High moved to 18 points with a 6-1 hammering of Meadowbrook High, while Innswood High (14) stayed in contention for second place in the group with their 3-1 win at Campion College.
In matches today, Group C rulers Wolmer's Boys' (22 points) could secure top spot with victory over hosts Clan Carthy High (two), surprise package St Catherine High (18) welcome lowly Kingston Technical, and third-placed Denham Town High (16) entertain Papine High.
In the tightly contested Group D, second-placed Camperdown High (17 points) host third-placed Charlie Smith High (17), while leaders and title-holders St George's College (17) contend with visitors Donald Quarrie High, and Vauxhall High travel to Oberlin High.
In Group F, second-placed Spanish Town High (10 points) welcome third-placed Greater Portmore High (nine) to the Prison Oval and Eltham High (five) host cellar team Penwood High. Leaders Kingston College, on 13 points, will be inactive.
All matches are scheduled to begin at 3:30 pm.
At the end of the preliminary phase, the top two teams in each group automatically progress to the second round of the Manning Cup. The two best third-placed schools will also advance.
Only the seven group winners and the best second-placed team will qualify for a place in the Walker Cup.
Yesterday's Manning Cup results
Calabar 2, Edith Dalton 0
Ascot 0, Hydel 1
Jonathan Grant 3, St Andrew Technical 1
Excelsior 1, Cumberland 0
Waterford 0, St Jago 1
Haile Selassie 0, Norman Manley 1
Bridgeport 0, Jamaica College 2
Jose Marti 6, Tivoli Gardens 0
St Andrew College 1, Ardenne 0
St Mary's College 1, Holy Trinity 2
Campion 1, Innswood 3
Trench Town 6, Meadowbrook 1
Today's Manning Cup matches
Clan Carthy vs Wolmer's
Denham Town vs Papine
St Catherine vs Kingston Technical
Camperdown vs Charlie Smith
St George's vs Donald Quarrie
Oberlin vs Vauxhall
Eltham vs Penwood
Spanish Town vs Greater Portmore
(All matches begin at 3:30 pm. Home teams named first)