Arima Secondary Comprehensive proved that persistence does pay off when they upset San Juan Secondary Comprehensive 1-0 yesterday at the Marvin Lee Stadium in the RBTT Inter Col East Zone semi-finals.
Aaron Ballantyne gave Arima their unlikely winner in the 64th minute of a riveting contest, but perhaps in the context of the showing they put on, it may have been described as deserved.
The largely pro-San Juan crowd expected their team to run past Arima. But the "Dial Dynamos" showed they were prepared to take the fight to the Bourg Mulatresse side. In fact, but for hesitance and poor finishing, they might have been ahead before the break.
San Juan took some time to find their feet and by then Arima had had three chances. Kendes Garcia looked composed and alert for Arima and provided an ample share of problems for the opposition, including a powerful drive from distance early on. Striker Nicholas Armstrong and Ballantyne in midfield also proved difficult to keep quiet, but were unable to make their chances count.
"San Juan done know they have no gift to get from Arima," remarked a San Juan fan. "They have to work for everything they get!"
That statement proved very true in the remaining 60 minutes.
San Juan's Keston Jackie and Jamal Spencer, though, did test Arima's defence, but found as stiff resistance at the back as in midfield.
Armstrong could have put Arima ahead in the 42nd, but wasted the gift laid at his feet at the end of Hayden De Verteuil's lovely solo run. At the break, the scoreline read 0-0.
San Juan returned a more determined bunch in the second period, Jamal Spencer and Hayden John providing some nervous moments for Arima custodian Joseph Craig, who handled it all coolly.
After 64 minutes and against the run of play, San Juan found themselves a goal down and needing pure inspiration to keep them in the unforgiving Inter Col competition.
Ballantyne was played free on the left, and cleared a straight path for goal, his marker preferring to shadow rather than tackle him. An innocuous left-footed drive beat San Juan goalie Nigel Morris' dive to his right and Arima were leading 1-0.
As time wore on, a mixture of despair and frustration could be seen etched on the faces of San Juan's supporters as shot after shot went awry.
One fan, whose dreams of schools football grandeur may have died more than 30 years ago, yelled at San Juan coach Keith Jeffrey like there was no tomorrow without a win. He went from criticising Jeffrey to shouting at the players: "We ent taking no loss, yuh know, we ent taking no loss!"
Fans tried cheering and drumming to urge San Juan on, but it proved not enough and the drums drew quieter as the clock wore down.
The final whistle ensured Arima will be the ones to face St Augustine on Saturday, while San Juan's title aspirations will have to wait another year.
In the North Zone, today's Inter Col semi-final will pit St Anthony's College against Fatima College at Fatima Ground, Mucurapo Road, for the right to face Mucurapo Secondary Comprehensive in the North final on Friday.
Mucurapo edged St Mary's College 3-2 in a hard-fought encounter at the same venue yesterday to ensure their place in the National Inter Col.
Today, a South Zone winner will also be crowned when Naparima College go up against Presentation College (San Fernando) in the final from 3.30 p.m. at Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
Yesterday's RBTT Inter Col Results:
St Augustine 1 (Jevaughn Vance 11th) Toco 0
San Juan 0 Arima 1 (Aaron Ballantyne)
Mucurapo 3 St Mary's 2
Today's RBTT Inter Col Fixtures:
St Anthony's College vs Fatima College, Fatima Ground, 3.30 p.m.
Naparima College vs Presentation College (San Fernando), Manny Ramjohn Stadium