PHC 0  North Village 1

North Village stole the spotlight from rivals PHC, dampening a celebratory night that saw a return of night matches to the Warwick institution.

A 51st minute header from Justin Bell was enough to seal the season’s opening Premier Division match in favour of the visiting Rams, who until that point had been made to absorb relentless pressure from the home team, anxious for victory on a momentous night more than a decade in the making.

Stationed at the edge of the six-yard box, Bell was able to elude his marker just enough, allowing the forward room to rise and get on the end of a targeted free-kick from outside the penalty area, his firm header leaving goal-keeper Coleridge Fubler flailing at air as the ball nestled in the back of the net.

It appeared for much of the affair that the result would go in favour of Zebras, as they dominated possession throughout the first half through neat passing combined with darting runs down both flanks, forcing Village into defensive posture.

The second half, however, presented a somewhat different tale, as Village adjusted to he pressure and managed to better exert themselves without actually dominating.

Having attained an advantage Village’s confidence grew and they moved with greater purpose, but an increasingly desperate PHC yet appeared the stronger of the two and it seemed only a matter of time before they would rectify matters.

A prime opportunity to equalise came in the 79th minute when substitute Shavon Nisbett was set free on a breakaway on the right, but with the defence in disarray and only goalie Detre Bell to beat, Nisbett took a touch too many, allowing Bell to intercept for the save.

PHC’s last chance came and went in the 86th minute, when captain Marco Warren’s curling free-kick from a point shaded to the left edge of the penalty area dipped agonisingly over the crossbar, leaving Zebras fans to commiserate as Rams supporters celebrated.

The result also placed Village in first place for at least one night, while condemning PHC, who had shown superior form to most in recent Dudley Eve Trophy matches, to a — likely temporary — place in the league’s cellar.

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