Humble Lions take a 1-1 draw from tough trip to Arnett Gardens

It wasn't the spectacle that many expected, but Humble Lions certainly aren't complaining after their trip to the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex gave them a share of the spoils in the first leg if their Red Stripe Premier League semifinal against Arnett Gardens on Sunday.

It's a result that leaves next Monday's return leg at the Effortville Sports Complex in Clarendon in the balance and the promise of more fireworks than Sunday's sometimes aimless affair.

"I think we played a very good tactical game, we took some things away from them and we are of course very happy about the scoreline heading back home," said a very satisfied Donovan Duckie, head coach of Humble Lions, after his team held the preliminary round table toppers to a 1-1 scoreline in front of an unwelcoming crowd.

Things started well enough for the hosts; it could hardly have gone any better in the opening exchanges as the rampant Arnett Gardens outfit ran rings around a shaken Humble Lions outfit who were perhaps a bit overwhelmed by their first trip to the semis. With fans still trying to find their seats, Andre Clennon arrived at the back post to pounce on a loose ball in the penalty box and drill a low shot into the far corner, sending the home fans into delight.

For a while it seemed like it could be a really long night for the visitors as the "Junglists," with a seemingly charged up Marvin Morgan Jr. and Vishinul Harris pulling the strings and finding acres of space in midfield, created all sort of headaches for the Humble Lion backline.

However Humble Lions, who had conceded just their 26th goal of the season, eventually found their stride and began to muscle their way into the contest as Duckie made the adjustments, limiting the space behind his wide players and forcing Arnett Gardens to play through the middle.

Arnett Gardens huffed and puffed but as the half progressed, the visitors seemed less likely to give anything else away, setting themselves up on the counter attack and reaping the reward on the stroke of halftime.

It started from the left foot of midfield orchestrator Wolry Wolfe, whose defence-splitting pass to talisman Devon Hodges set the forward in behind the defence. The striker's pull back from the left side of the penalty box, struck the arm of an Arnett Gardens defender, resulting in a penalty kick. Team captain Wolfe confidently slotted home the resulting spot kick to bring his team level in the 42nd minute.

Humble Lions came out after the break with greater self belief and were obviously more eager to try and control the pace, consolidating in defence with Ricardo Cousins and Francois Swaby always looking to spring the pacey Roberto Fletcher and Hodges at each opportunity. Still, Arnett Gardens only have themselves to blame as they were constantly let down by nightmarish finishing and some poor decision-making inside the final third.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game and we will now have to refocus on going to Clarendon and getting the result there," said Arnett Gardens coach Jerome Waite.

He would have been saying something entirely different had Harris scored in the 55th minute, who inexplicably dragged his shot wide after he had done all the hard work, turning two defenders inside the box and with the Humble Lions goal at his mercy. Renee Lloyd was just as culpable, also shamefully shooting wide from inside the box when it seemed much easier to score.

"This was a championships team's performance, we showed real mettle today. Things started off a little shakily for us but we managed to regroup and show that we are a championship caliber team here tonight," Duckie beamed.

So we are halfway there but nothing has been settled in this one given the 1-1 draw. It will be all to play for when these two teams meet each other again on next Monday with eyes squarely set on a spot in the May 25 finale.