AFTER an ordinary run during the second round of the Jamaica Premier League few people would have given Harbour View any chance of making the play-offs, let alone the final of the competition this season.
But after scraping through to the final six on goal difference, the “Stars of the East” have come alive in a big way and stopped the run of four consecutive premier league final appearances by Waterhouse FC when they drew the second-leg semi-final 1-1 on Wednesday to advance to today’s final 2-1 on aggregate.
Speaking after their 1-1 draw on Wednesday night, Head Coach Ludlow Bernard praised his players for sticking to their guns against formidable opponents.
“Well, the resilience really did show up…it wasn’t one of our better games. I think we were very, very slow off the mark and we really just wanted to get back in the dressing room 0-0 at half-time — and unfortunately we conceded.”
Bernard said he gave them the “hairdryer” treatment at half-time and the response was exactly as desired.
“The resilience of these boys, the never say die attitude…I had to give them a real firm and confident talk inside of the changing room and I think they responded well to it.
“They were determined that although they weren’t on their best day, that they were not going to concede anymore.”
He also noted the impact of the players off the bench, including goalscorer Nicholas Hamilton, in seeing them through to the finals after some of the starters had played their part.
“I think, very importantly, that the changes that we ran eventually — replacing [Casseam] Priestly, replacing Timar Lewis who had really put in some really good shifts and Phillon Lawrence, and then coming through with the others — they really did provide that momentum that we needed. As the game wore on we got better and better in the game.
“It wasn’t a surprise that Hamilton ended up on the end of a good play,” he noted.
Bernard hailed the strike by Hamilton who scored in both legs of the semi-finals.
“He had to [be patient] because there were bodies around him and the angles were closing. But, he is a prolific person when it comes to goalscoring; he has the experience and of course this is what we recruited him for, these moments,” he said with a smile.
Harbour View have not featured in a premier league final since they last won it in 2013 and the players are determined to make their own mark at the club, Bernard said.
“The players are really upbeat about this final. They really want it, they say they need it, and of course, for Harbour View it is very important that we get back on the charts.”
Bernard believes that winning the title will help to revive “brand Harbour View”.
“It is very, very important that we put ourselves in a position where we become marketable again, where we become visible again, so it’s a good year for the product and brand Harbour View, and of course we expect to go all the way this time around,” he stated with confidence.
Having won the Manning Cup and Olivier Shield with Kingston College earlier this year, Bernard would be the first coach to win those titles and the premier league in the same season if Harbour View were to lift the title tonight, something he has in the back of his mind.
“I didn’t really want to trumpet that one just yet. I really wanted to keep it quiet until [after the game] but yes, it is a personal ambition that I have and of course I think it would be a very good achievement, but right now the more important thing is for Harbour View Football Club to get title number five,” he insisted.
Standing in the way of Harbour View, title number five, as well as Bernard and his personal ambitions are Harold Thomas and first-time finalists Dunbeholden FC who are determined to put their first star on the front of their jerseys.
— Dwayne Richards