André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
One goal was all that separated Arnett Gardens from fellow relegation candidates Humble Lion, as the 'Junglists' held on for a gritty 1-0 victory inside the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex on Sunday night in Digicel Premier League action.
The hosts could not have wished for a better start as Vanado Manning shot the 'Junglists' into an early advantage after making the most of a loose-ball situation with only three minutes on the clock.
Arnett Gardens continued to tighten the screws on their Claren-don-based rivals early on, but found no further joy throughout the contest as they added three points to their tally to join Humble Lion on 42.
The former champions and homesters were enjoying the better of possession after 36 minutes. Nicholas Dodd should have stretched the lead but he couldn't direct his shot goalwards after he stuck out his foot to meet a Ricardo Smith cross, following some enterprising play from club idol Kevin 'Pele' Wilson.
Defender Rohan Reid skied a chance at the backpost from a looping free kick from Wilson, after finding himself with acres of space in the 40th minute.
Humble Lion started the second half with more imagination and purpose, but somehow failed to make the most of their numerous opportunities due to poor decision making in their offensive third, as Arnett Gardens adopted a defensive posture.
On 65 minutes, Arnett Gardens thought they had doubled their lead when Rasheed Clarke tapped in an attempted shot (that ended up as a cross) from Manning from inside the six-yard box.
The goal was, however, ruled offside after Clarke was adjudged to have been behind the last defender.
The visitors came close on 73 minutes, but midfielder Zico Herrera could not find the target after skipping past his marker on the right side of the penalty area.
Humble Lion continued to press for an equaliser, but the Arnett Gardens defenders worked with gusto to lead the team to an important triumph in their bid to secure top-flight status next season.
dedicated to a father
Arnett Gardens' coach, Wayne Fairclough, was happy with the attitude of his players and dedicated the win to the memory of his deceased father.
"The players wanted to do this for my father who was buried yesterday and I'm really proud of the way that they battled all night," said Fairclough. "The early goal really took the fight out of them (Humble Lion) somewhat and we did well to hold on."
Humble Lion's coach, Christopher Bender, bemoaned his team's poor start and rued their failure to convert chances.
"We started very flat and we paid for that. Funny enough, we really started playing only after they scored," said Bender. "It's dis-appointing because we dominated everything; possession and chances created, but we just could not manage to find a goal."