Grand finale!

Portmore, Waterhouse square off for Red Stripe Premier League title

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, April 23, 2018

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After easily conquering the defending champions Arnett gargens in their two-leg Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) semi-final, Waterhouse FC will be seeking to ride their current form all the way to the top of the 2017/18 season.

But the ever-consistent Portmore United will be resolute in their attempt to make it third time lucky since returning to top-flight football.

That is the current situation as both teams gear up to meet in what should be an enthralling showdown to crown a new champion inside the National Stadium today at 8:35 pm.

Fireworks are expected between the two teams, with Portmore being the top ranked attacking team with 64 goals, while Waterhouse are ranked fifth with 39.

From a defensive standpoint, Portmore are ranked at number two, having conceded 25, with Waterhouse again ranked at number five, after conceding 34.

But those are just stats, as it will all come down to who wants it more on the day, especially given what is at stake.

Portmore United, who were relegated at the end of the 2013/14 season, and missed the 2014/15 period, have been a model of consistency upon their return to the nation's top-flight league in the 2015/16 season, where they went straight to the final and lost to Montego Bay United.

They again made the final last season, but at that point found Arnett Gardens too good in the end and had to settle for consecutive second place finishes.

But all that is now a reflection in their rear-view mirror of the five-time champions who reigned supreme in 1993, 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2012, as they are now poised to secure title number six.

Portmore United picked up steam midway the season on their way to pocketing the $1 million bonus as league winners as they hit the accelerator and have not looked back since.

Two of their 21 victories this season came against today's opponents and, given their rampaging attacking front, one would expect them to start slight favourites in what could be viewed as a renewal of their rivalry.

In three meetings between the two this season, the Portmore United have been the most dominant outfit, winning 5-1 and 2-1, while Waterhouse pulled one back late in the season with a 1-0 scoreline away to their rivals.

Despite that, Portmore United's Head Coach Shavar Thomas believes the time is now right for his team to set the record straight once and for all.

“We are most definitely hoping to go all the way this time around; the past is the past so we haven't really dwelled on the last two finals. The guys have worked hard and they are hungry and are ready to go out there and do their best and make us proud.

“I can't speak for the last two seasons, like I said, but this time the approach will be to go out there and leave it all on the field, as it is just one game, the final. We have been the most consistent team over a period of time and so there is no real pressure, the onus is on us to go out there and do what we have to do to come out victorious,” Thomas told the Jamaica Observer.

During their break from league action, Portmore United were kept on the go by Thomas ahead of their two-way semi-final against Cavalier SC, which they won 3-0 on aggregate.

The former national player noted that his unit is raring to go and will relish the challenge of what is expected to be a marauding Waterhouse attacking line.

“We are looking forward to a very competitive and exciting game. It will be a tactical approach as you know it's two very good attacking teams and, based on previous results, things are going our way, so we just need to continue doing what we do best,” Thomas added.

Portmore United possess a certain level of compactness within the depth of their squad, and the speed and agility of the likes of Maalique Foster, Jovan East, Shai Smith, and Jeremie Lynch are expected to prove hard to withstand.

Complementing that attacking line will be the likes Ewan Grandison, Chevany Willis, Venton Evans, Kemar Phillpotts, and Ricardo Morris, who is promising much for today's finale.

However, Waterhouse, who defeated Arnett Gardens 3-1 on aggregate, also possess a fierce three-prong attack spearheaded by the prolific Cordell Benbow, alongside the speedy Kemar Beckford and Andre McFarlane, who should keep their opponents' defensive line on their toes.

Frontline goalkeeper Diego Haughton, who is expected to be shadowed by Shawn Lawes, Nicholy Finlayson, Mark Miller, and Ricardo Thomas, will prove hard to crack for Portmore United.

The likes of Tremaine Stewart, Keithy Simpson, Carlos Barrett, Allan Ottey, and Gary McIntosh are also expected to figure in Waterhouse's pursuit of glory as they come into the contest on a five-match unbeaten run.

It has been a truly remarkable run and, by extension, an impressive coaching achievement by Donovan Duckie, who took Waterhouse from just above the relegation zone and straight into the final in just four months and three weeks in charge.

It is also the club's first time making the final since losing to Montego Bay United in the 2013-14 final.And though the veteran tactician has no firm expectations as it relates to the outcome of the showpiece event, just like their moniker “Fire House” suggest, one can expect a Waterhouse to be blazing all the way in an attempt to end the season on a high.

Should Duckie and his team come out victorious it would be the Drewsland club's third national title, having won back in 1998 and 2006.

“When I got the job I was asked to save relegation, so in just about four-and-a half months, had we almost qualified for top six, or even a top six finish, it would have been remarkable achievement for him (the president) seeing the position that the club was in.

“But I must say congratulations to the players, because I have never seen players adapt so well and so fast to something that is probably new to them and we kept setting short-term goals as we went along and here we are now.

“I must tell you I am surprised we are in the final, because we have achieved so much in a short space of time, because any coach who went through the proper coaching channel would have asked for three years to get to know the players and so on,” Duckie told the Observer.

He continued: “So it is a huge achievement for us and, personally, for me because I have gone one better because many would have known the story at Humble Lion, it was almost the same thing...from nothing to something, but we failed at the semis.

“So now this team has gone one better, and I'm definitely looking forward to them going all the way. But I just want them to give 100 per cent effort throughout the game and our concentration should be peaking for every second that's all I ask them to do.”

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