Luton Shelton was drained after only 45 minutes of action upon his return from a lengthy injury layoff.
But the striker was clearly satisfied as his boyhood club Harbour View FC — boosted by his first-half goal — came from behind to clip fellow former champions Tivoli Gardens FC 2-1 in the Red Stripe Premier League encounter at National Stadium on Monday.
“I’ve been out of the game for the last two years because of injury and now I’m working on my fitness and my confidence to get back,” Shelton, who most recently played for FC Volga in Russia between 2013 and 2015, told the Jamaica Observer after Monday’s win.
“While trying to get back into the game, I said I might as well play for Harbour View to try to help them and also see how much I can get from it. For a first game back it feels very good, and as a striker you always want to get that first goal and after that it becomes easier,” he added.
Shelton, 31, offered little threat throughout his time on the pitch, as he loped about, obviously lacking confidence and fitness following a problematic knee injury.
While lacking the blistering pace that helped him become the Reggae Boyz all-time scoring leader with 35 goals, Shelton soon had a telling impact in his comeback game.
Crafty off-the-ball movement came to the fore when he peeled away from the defence to direct a looping header into the goal to cancel Tivoli’s opening goal from fellow veteran Jermaine Johnson.
Shelton, who sustained a knock, was substituted at the break. However, a second-half strike from Kemar Bennett assured Harbour View all three points and condemned former leaders Tivoli to their second-straight loss.
“It wasn’t a very good game for me because I just started back playing this week, so I don’t have much fitness. It was good to get the goal and I know the rest will come after,” the former schoolboy star explained.
Shelton, who has also played in Sweden, England, Norway, Denmark and Turkey, is one of several Harbour View stalwarts who have returned to help the struggling former champions.Sean Fraser and Akeem Priestly were on the scoresheet as Harbour View outscored Portmore United 3-2 last week.
“It feels very good because we are way down in the table and we have got some experienced players to come in and give their input. It’s the experience that was needed, because we had a lot of young kids before but now we are able to win…It was a very hard game and Tivoli are a competitive team. They are very aggressive and not an easy team to break down. We did well to take our chances and things look good going forward,” the former Reggae Boyz striker told the Jamaica Observer.
But it was all Tivoli in the first half in cool, evening conditions on Monday.
And the dominance told from as early the sixth minute when Junior McGregor fed a pass to Johnson, who held off a challenge before lodging into the net.
In the midst of a series of opportunities that fell to Tivoli, Marvin Stewart could have made it two-nil, but he cut inside a defender and shot weakly at goalkeeper Christian Kluvi from close range.
But Shelton, who appeared to be ambling about harmlessly for the opening 40 minutes, rose high to direct a header beyond the reach of goalkeeper Davin Watkins to shock Tivoli Gardens.
Shelton, after sustaining a knock, did not return for the second half, but his teammates slowly wrested the ascendancy.
It came as no surprise when Bennett bravely threw himself to turn in Hugh Evans’ swerving cross from the left side to give them the lead.
The hard-running Johnson crafted a couple of chances for Tivoli, but they failed to materialise into a goal.
Tivoli Gardens — Davin Watkins, Kevin Graham, Barrington Pryce, Kemar Seivwright, Nicholas Smith, Marvin Stewart, Tevin Shaw, Miguel Ricketts (Ajuma Johnson 68th), Junior McGregor (Howard Morris 69th), Jermaine Johnson, Peter Keyes (Donavon Dawkins 72nd).
Subs not used: Nicholas Clarke, Rushane Facey, Jermaine Parris, Arthur Walters
Booked: Johnson (71st), Seivwright (85th)
Harbour View — Christian Kluvi, Hugh Evans, Javain Brown, Evan Taylor, Rashawn Mackison (John-Ross Edwards 68th), Nicholas Beckett, Fabian Grant, Kemar Bennett (Sheldon McKoy 81st), Akeem Priestly, McKauly Tulloch, Luton Shelton (Michael Martin 46th).
Subs not used: Devon Haughton, Damarley Oliver, Clayon Pusey, Andre Messam
Booked: Evans (90+5)
Referee: Dwight Royal
Assistant referees: Jermaine Yee Sing, Oyinco McTaggart
Fourth official: Okeito Nicholson
Match Commissary: Richard Nathan
Source: Composite of 2 articles from the Jamaica Observer