Portmore's Thomas lauds team in testy derby showdown

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

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It is the delight of every coach to see his team rise to the occasion when their mettle is truly tested. On that note, Portmore United head coach Shavar Thomas is a happy man.

Thomas had high praises for his team, which showed guts and determination in clinching a 3-2 win over neighbours Dunbeholden FC in a drama-filled Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) St Catherine derby at Royal Lakes Complex on Sunday.

Though overwhelmed by the three points that ensured Portmore United ended the first round on a high and, by extension, stay atop the 12-team standing on 21 points, it was the character displayed by the players, particularly goalkeeper Kemar Foster who defied a sprained wrist to finish the game, that charmed Thomas.

“It was not easy against Dunbeholden... the field played a part in it being a little bit tougher than we expected because it is small but we are not making any excuses.

“It was a very tough game because they played a very good and tactical game... it was end-to-end action which is how a derby should be regardless of where they are in the standing or where we are — and it showed today (Sunday) in the result,” Thomas told the Jamaica Observer in a post-game interview.

“I am very impressed because the players put in a very spirited performance and they showed character. We never turned and pointed the finger at each other. We kept working because we knew we had to work for 90-plus minutes to get anything from this game — and you can hear the passion in the voice of the players even now as they discuss the performance,” he added.

Portmore United were forced to toil before they managed to edge the promoted team courtesy of a brace from Chevany Willis (63rd and 90th), with Roshane Sharpe (64th) getting the other.

Clayon Pusey's 28th-minute strike placed Dunbeholden 1-0 up at half-time, but Portmore United dug deep on the resumption and pulled level when Willis drove home a lovely 30-yard free kick.

Roshane Sharpe then got in on the act to put Portmore United 2-1 up after he combined with Rondee Smith in capitalising on a defensive error.

Portmore United were in danger of gaining only a point from the contest as Nickoy Christian grabbed an 80th-minute equaliser for Dunbeholden FC from the penalty spot.

However, like true champions, they refused to settle for only a point and eventually found the winner when Willis completed his double in time added.

With the win, their second on the trot, Portmore United have opened up a three-game unbeaten run, which was another high point for Thomas, who has demanded some level of consistency from his team heading into the second phase of the league.

“The players responded well to get the victory after falling behind, and also to ensure that we remain at the top of the table. So, I raise my hat to them because they were able to withstand the pressure and pounce when it matters most.

“So this is most definitely what we wanted, we started the round on a bad foot and so we wanted to end on a good note, and we did,” the former national defender reasoned.

But with just a mere point separating them from second-placed Mount Pleasant FA, Thomas is cognisant that the objective to defend their title will get tougher going forward.

University of the West Indies (UWI), Arnett Gardens and Tivoli Gardens, all on 17 points, are also in striking distance of Portmore United.

As such, Thomas now insists that the fighting spirit and character from the players will have to be maintained for the remainder of the season.

“It is good that we have cleared the first hurdle going into the second round and we need this momentum to drive us through for the rest of the season.

“So now it is back to the drawing board. We have a couple of players that were missing today (Sunday) [due]to national team duties, but we are getting everybody back for this week so we are going to remain grounded and build to the weekend,” Thomas ended.

— Sherdon Cowan

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