A HEAD THING: Kirk Beckles of St Michael West leaping to attempt a header against St Andrew. (Pictures by Kenmore Bynoe.)
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ST ANDREW produced a commanding display to reach their first final, as they eased past St Michael West 3-0 in the semi-finals of the David Thompson Memorial Constituency Councils Football Classic at Gall Hill on Sunday night.
An early strike from Justin White was followed by late goals from Raymond Hope and Ryan Stuart respectively, as the St Andrew men broke St Michael West hearts late on, after defending White’s strike for much of the night.
In the second semi-final, defending champions and perennial escape artists St George South advanced to their second consecutive final after they successfully navigated a close encounter with St Thomas by a 1-0 scoreline.
Shakille Belle notched what proved to be the winner on the cusp of half-time, ensuring that the defending champions’ dream of back-to-back titles need only clear one more hurdle in order to become a reality.
St Andrew always looked the more assured side in the early going, as they settled much the quicker in the must win encounter. Their quick passing game was threatening to undo St Michael West on a number of occasions before that danger was eventually realised just before the 20-minute mark.
A leading ball out to the right saw the St Andrew men beat the offside, before a cynical tackle halted the move. A free kick blown just outside the area provided a set piece in a menacing position, and it was one which they took full advantage of.
Raymond Hope floated a beautiful set piece to the back post, where an intelligent run from Justin White afforded him the space and time to only require a simple finish, as he side-footed home to propel his side to a 19th minute lead.
St Michael West, to their credit, came out in the second half and pushed hard for an equaliser throughout, but that final bit of quality was just eluding them, this despite the best efforts of the likes of Shanniel Marshall.
A late push saw them make headway up the right before swinging in a cross, but as so often on the night, a St Andrew player was on hand to thwart the move. This time it was goalkeeper Bentley Springer, who then distributed quickly down the right, where a quick through ball was then slipped in behind the St Michael West defence.
A wonderfully timed blind side run from Raymond Hope caught the entire backline unaware, with the forward then racing towards goal, before slotting past Kerry Holder nicely, to emphatically double St Andrew’s advantage in the 90th and spark wild celebrations on the side-lines.
St Andrew, ruthless as you like, then proceeded to rub salt in the proverbial wound late on, overloading a then visibly stunned St Michael West down the left.
A quick exchange subsequently freed Ryan Stuart to embark on a scything run, as the attacker motored past two players at the edge of the area, before opening his body up and producing a picturesque curling finish into the bottom corner.
It secured a much coveted spot in the final, where a mouth-watering clash between them and the defending champions – who never know when they are beaten – now intriguingly awaits. (ML)