A glancing header from Renaldo Rodney and a ferocious right foot blast from St. Fleur catapulted Montego Bay United (MBU) into playoff position in the Red Stripe Premier League for the first time this season with a thrilling 2-1 win over Reno in the western derby at WesPow Park on Sunday (February 18).
The latest three points moved MBU up two places to fifth with 37 points, as they completed a third victory in five outings.
The defeat had a reverse effect on the Westmoreland-based Reno, who slipped out of the top half of the standings and into seventh position, although just two points and a point adrift of two teams, MBU and Harbour View, respectively.
Rodney opened the scoring in the 37th minute before St. Fleur sealed the win with a blistering strike in the 59th.
The crucial and much-anticipated encounter got off to a well-balanced start, with both teams cancelling out each other with stout defending.
The first real chance of the match-up went MBU’s way in the 27th minute, when Rodney, who could have had a hat-trick, was out clean in on goal, but his effort from close range was blocked by a sprawling defender.
Looking lively and quick on the ball, Reno had the holding of their opponents and looked purposeful on the ball in and around the mid-third, without being penetrative.
However, their sting was knocked from the Reno team and the deadlock was broken in the 37th minute when Rodney flicked a header past the despairing lunge of Reno’s goalkeeper, getting on the end of a well-weighted cross delivered by Ladale Richie.
MBU held the slim advantage going into the break and just five minutes into the resumption, Rodney again found himself facing goal, but, after getting on the end of a blistering three-man build-up, his tame shot was held low down at the near post.
After trading blows mostly in the middle of the park, MBU increased their advantage just on the hour-mark when St. Fleur used his speed to destructive effect, powering between two defenders before unleashing a venomous shot high into the corner of the net.
The home team could have further increased their margin six minutes later, but hot-striker Dino Williams missed a sitter from six yards out after getting a perfect pass from St. Fleur.
MBU enjoyed a crowd-loving spell midway the 80-minute mark, which saw them maintain possession of the ball with 45 passes untouched by their opponents.
Captain Dwayne Ambursely, back in the middle of the park, Rodney and Williams, again had chances but failed to convert.
Omar Johnson, with a powerful header in time added on, got the consolation goal for the Reno team.
Tim Hannkinson, the MBU coach, said it was nice to get the win and move into the top half, and he was pleased that players are now rounding into attacking form.
Meanwhile, Sandals South Coasts, whose relegation from the top flight after just one season is now just weeks away, slipped closer to certain relegation following another defeat, the latest a 1-0 beating at the hands of Tivoli Gardens.
The latest defeat is a 17th for the Westmoreland-based Aaron Lawrence-coached team.
They are rooted second from bottom on just 19 points, two ahead of Boys’ Town, whose relegation was confirmed last weekend.