CLARENDON, Jamaica — It might have taken them almost four years, but in the end, Rivoli United did get their revenge.
In 2010, when the Spanish Town side bowed out of the then Digicel Premier League on the final day of the season, it was Sporting Central Academy who gave them the boot.
On that Sunday evening in May, Rivoli needed only a point to avoid relegation, while Sporting needed a win. But, for Sporting, that win seemed highly unlikely, especially with Rivoli leading 1-0 well into the latter stages of the contest.
However, playing at home, Sporting weren't about to play dead. And, with Rivoli seemingly content with their slim advantage, the hosts staged a last-gasp rally with two goals from Jamoly Powell and Je-Vaughn Watson, to eliminate the visitors.
A lot has changed since that eventful day in south-west Clarendon. Sporting, now under new management, no longer play their home games at Brancourt and are also taking orders from a new coach. Rivoli, too, have made some changes to their set-up.
Aiming to plot an immediate return to the premiership, the club brought in experienced coach Calvert Fitzgerald, who eventually spent three years in the South Central Confederation Super League overhauling the squad.
Hence, when the Rivoli players stepped onto the Juici Patties Park on Sunday to renew rivalry with Sporting in the Red Stripe Premier League, not many would have carried the bitter memories of 2010 with them.
However, the few who remained with the team during the rebuilding process never forgot that day. And quite fittingly, it was one of those old guards — their talismanic captain Devon Hodges — who notched the winning goal.
The burly centre-forward, like he has done so often in the past, used his body to hold off his marker before creating space for himself to unleash a rasping right-footed shot past the hapless Gerald Eastwood in goal for Sporting.
Unlike three years ago, Rivoli didn't try to protect the slender advantage given to them in the 22nd minute. They kept going at Sporting Central — as if they were the home team — and had it not been for the frame of the goal, they would have tripled their advantage.
Sporting did try to rally, but this time they were up against a group of players who were determined to record their first win of the campaign, following two failed attempts against fellow promoted side August Town (1-1) and Tivoli Gardens (0-0).
This victory, coming so early in the season, will by no means relegate Sporting from the RSPL — they have more than enough time to make amends for back-to-back defeats, starting with their Flow Champions Cup quarter-final game against Waterhouse on Thursday.
But Hodges and company did leave Clarendon feeling that they have gained sweet revenge. And, if the wild celebrations that broke out at the final whistle didn't offer enough evidence, then his post-game comments certainly did.