Marvin Morgan leads Arnett Gardens to final with win over Humble Lions

In 2002, Kelly Clarkson became the first American idol, Brazil won the World Cup, Men in Black II was a thing and Arnett Gardens won their last Jamaican national league title, while Marvin Morgan was just about to hit puberty.

Now a grown man and the key figure in Arnett Gardens' midfield, it was Morgan who provided the winner -- albeit somewhat fortuitously -- as the club moved one step closer to ending their 12 year wait by beating Humble Lions 3-2 in the Red Stripe Premier League second leg semifinal on Monday night.

The visitors entered the Effortville Sports Complex cauldron in Central Jamaica knowing that they would have to do better than the first leg -- a 1-1 draw at their Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex venue -- if they were to reach the final against Montego Bay United on June 1.

Beaten at the semifinal stage last year, Arnett Gardens seemed hell bent on going one better this time around and came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, setting up camp in Humble Lions' half of the field and creating several early opportunities to take the advantage.

Top scorer Leon Strickland, who was still on the fringes of a breakthrough when they sat at the top of the pile in 2002, had spoken openly about his dream of leading the team to the final this time around.

And he certainly had his chances as he crashed a thunderous half volley onto the crossbar from inside the box as first time semi-finalists Humble Lions seemed to be in awe of the fiery atmosphere created by their fans.

Andre Clennon, Vishinuel Harris, who performed much better than his wasteful showing in the first leg, enjoyed particular success down the right flank and it was little surprise when Arnett Gardens took the lead in the 22nd minute.

Harris brushed himself off after he was tripped up at the edge of the penalty area and floated a free-kick over the wall to kiss the underside of the bar and bounce into the net.

The hosts, fueled by a rocking Effortville crowd finally flipped the ON switch and came storming back, wresting control of the midfield with captain Wolry Wolfe and Ricardo Cousins taking on the role of puppet-masters, pulling the strings and looking to orchestrate a response.

That response came from the penalty spot after Keniel Wolfe was brought down by Renee Lloyd with the referee pointing to the spot after consulting with his assistant. Television replays showed that the offence actually took place outside of the box but Wolry didn't care as he stepped up to score his third straight penalty, placing his shot to the left of goalkeeper Damion Hyatt to level the score in the 43rd minute.

Humble Lions custodian Damion Crooks, who was later replaced by back-up goalkeeper Garice McPherson due to an apparent leg injury, was then forced into a point blank save after Strickland made solid contact with a corner from the left hand side.

The home supporters were still celebrating Wolfe's equalising penalty and Crooks' save when, two minutes later, Jabeur Johnson went low and connected with a redirected corner kick, sending his left foot shot into the net to return the advantage to Arnett Gardens.

However, Humble Lions went level soon after as Cousins latched onto a chested pass from striker Devon Hodges to cannon a right footer into the Arnett Gardens net with 49 minutes on the clock.

Arnett Gardens, who ended the preliminary round of top of the table, pushed for a killer blow and Lloyd came agonizingly close when his searing 25 yard missile of a shot crashed against the crossbar .

Had that gone in, McPherson would have received nothing but sympathy. However, with 82 minutes played, the goalkeeper somehow allowed a rather tame effort from Morgan just outside the area to escape his grasp and trickle into the net after diving to his right.

A cruel end to Humble Lions's dream of a first ever Red Stripe Premier League final, but one man's pain is another man's pleasure and Marvin Morgan -- called 'Mr Man' by his fans, is all grown up and perhaps ready to lead Arnett Gardens back to the heights of 2002.