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Central FC survived a “Ratty” scare to defeat Malabar FC 3-2 on penalties following a thrilling 2-2 draw, and a second string DIRECTV W Connection warmed late to defeat North East Stars 3-0 in Wednesday night’s FA Trophy semi-final round at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

Central, winners of this season’s First Citizens Cup, and bitter rivals W Connection, winners of the Toyota Classic, will meet from 7:30pm on Wednesday 18 December in the FA Trophy Final, following the third place contest between Malabar and North East Stars from 5pm.

Central, who suffered a 1-0 Digicel Pro League defeat against leaders Connection last Saturday, suffered an early goal against Malabar when in the 3 rd minute of play Gorian “Ratty” Highley directed in a cross to beat goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams for a 1-0 advantage.

Central – last season’s defeated FA Trophy finalist – suffered another blow in the 36 th minute, when coach Terry Fenwick was forced to make a premature change, replacing his injured captain and versatile midfielder Marvin Oliver with Keon Trim.

Oliver’s ability to control the game and creativity was clearly missed, although Central later leveled the scores in the 38 th minute when winger Johan Peltier turned sharply inside the area and fired past Malabar captain and defender Keston Pierre to beat a stunned goalkeeper Zane Coker for a 1-1 score.

But Highley popped up again in the 41 st minute from the penalty spot with a clinical finish, beating a fully stretched goalkeeper Williams, to restore the Super League club’s advantage 2-1.

Referee Gyasi Mc Donald had awarded the penalty when the ball off Malabar forward Kevon Woodley’s boot struck the arm of Central defender Akeem Benjamin inside the area.

Central, who had a good opportunity dismissed by Coker in the 54 th minute – blocking out a substitute Darren Mitchell effort after a Marcano cross into the area was missed by strikers Dwight Quintero and Rundell Winchester – were lucky not to concede another item.

Highley produced a perfect to cross to Woodley at the top of the area in the 62 nd minute, however Williams comfortably gathered the Tobagonian’s low strike.

And when Shemol Trimmingham’s pass in the 63 rd minute set Hayden Tinto free to evade a fully committed Williams outside the area, his curling effort towards goal was miraculously headed clear at the goal-line by rightback Elton John.

John’s heroics was temporarily erased in the 77 th minute though, when the skillful Highley shredded the right-back to pieces on the left before finding teammate Cyrano Glen, who scuffed wide of the post from inside the area.

In the same minute Central’s Peltier, who struck wide in the 64 th minute and forced a save out of Coker a minute later, produced a fine cross which Winchester headed wide.

Then in the 82 nd minute Highley popped up again, picking up on an errant pass by Marcano, but was denied his hat-trick by the glove of Williams.

However Central, already utilising their three substitutions, fell short of a player in the continuation after defender Keion Goodridge crashed awkwardly into the upright in his desperate effort to clear the Highley rebound ahead of Malabar’s Stevon Stoute.

Goodridge was rushed to Westshore Medical Hospital with the suspicion of fractured ribs; which was later ruled out following a chest x-ray and checks done by team doctor Welch and physiotherapist Oswin Birchwood.

Central went on to level the scores 1-1 in the 86 th minute when defender Jamal Jack made connection to goalkeeper Williams’ long free-kick into the Malabar area to hit past Coker.

But wasted a winning opportunity in the 88 th minute when Trim failed to direct in Winchester’s cross with goalkeeper Coker at his mercy.

Central, instead, went on to show their professionalism from the penalty spot, for a 3-2 win, despite Marcano’s miss high overbar on their first kick.

Elton John, Peltier and Winchester were all on target, guiding Central into the Final.

While Malabar’s Highley and Nicholas Armstrong, struck the crossbar in the first and fifth kicks respectively. Tinto scored on the second before Williams made a save against Norrel George in the third, and although getting some glove to the fourth, Woodley scored.

In the match it wasn’t as entertaining until the 67 th minute when a powerful kick from a set piece by Connection right-back Alvin Jones, 23 yards out, was pushed into the air by a diving Stars goalie Cleon John, who unfortunately failed to do better than glove the dropping ball into the back of his net.

Connection, who had the only close chance in the first half when Mickaeel Jem Gordon 39 th minute curling strike off a Devaughn Elliot throw-in was just wide of the upper corner, celebrated the Jones item blissfully for a 1-0 advantage.

Connection were close in the 71 st and 72nd minutes when Neil Benjamin Jr. shaved the side netting and Tremain Shayn Paul smashed an effort just wide, respectively.

Brazilian midfielder Celio Da Silva Santos was also wide in the 80 th minute, inches wide of the base of the upright, but made up in the second minute of stoppage time with a cool finish – for a 3-0 Connection score – from close up off a Rijssel pass.

Rijssel was also involved in Connection’s second item by playing in Benjamin for the initial effort, which was gloved out by goalkeeper John, but Hashim Arcia came cruising in for a tap in.

Connection, who ended with 10 men just as Central, after Elliot limped off in the 83 rd minute, will surely revert to regulars against the side that defeated them 3-2 on penalties following a goalless draw in the semi-final round of 2013 First Citizens Cup two months ago.

2013 FA Trophy Semi-Final Round Results

Malabar FC 2—2 Central FC (regular time score)
Gorian Highley 3’, 41’  ;  Johan Peltier 38’, Jamal Jack 86’

Kicks from the penalty mark

Malabar FC (2)             Central FC (3)
Gorian Highley (missed) Jason Marcano (missed)
Hayden Tinto (scored)    Elton John (scored)
Norrel George (saved)    Johan Peltier (scored)
Kevon Woodley (scored) Rundell Winchester (scored)
Nicholas Armstrong (missed)

Teams

Malabar FC—69. Zane Coker (GK), 3. Keston Pierre (capt.), 9. Cyrano Glen (99. Stevonn Stoute 79th), 10. Hayden Tinto, 15. Sherwayne Morris, 17. Jameel Neptune (26. Norrel George 68th), 19. Kevon Woodley (Yellow Card), 20. Gorian Highley (Yellow Card), 44. Shemol Trimmingham, 88. Jesse Martinez, 90.Nicholas Armstrong

Unused substitutes—1. Shane Mattis (GK), 4. Avery Cabralis, 11. Dorian Daniel, 13. Calvin Shepherd, 80. Kion Joseph

Coach—Julius Edwards

Central FC—21. Jan Michael Williams (Yellow Card), 10. Marvin Oliver (22. Keon Trim 34th), 2. Elton John, 3. Keon Goodridge, 6. Toric Robinson (11. Darren Mitchell 46th), 24. Akeem Benjamin (15. Kaydion Gabriel 63rd), 7. Jason Marcano, 9. Dwight Quintero, 12. Jamal Jack, 13. Johan Peltier, 17. Rundell Winchester (Yellow Card)

Unused substitutes—4. Omarr Charles, 19. Dwight Pope, 23. Hector Sam, 25. Javon Sample (GK)

Coach—Terry Fenwick

Results

North East Stars 0—3 W Connection
Alvin Jones 67’, Hashim Arcia 90’, Celio Da Silva Santos 90’+2

Teams

North East Stars—22. Cleon John (capt.), 2. Kareem Moses, 4. Keithy Simpson (16. Neil Mitchell 76th), 6. Jeromie Williams, 7. Elijah Manners, 9. Akiel Guevara (5. Aquil Selby 76th), 12. Jayson Joseph, 18. Kaashif Thomas, 19. Glenton Wolfe, 23. Kennedy Hinkson (13. Neveal Hackshaw 65th), 25. Keryn Navarro

Unused substitutes—1. Stephan Berkeley (GK), 8. Jesus Perez, 20. Trevin Caesar, 37. Andrew Smith

Coach—Angus Eve

W Connection—22. Aquelius Sylvester, 3. Gerard Williams (capt.), 6. Celio Da Silva Santos, 9. Andell Noray (26. Stefano Rijssel 45th), 11. Tremain Shayn Paul (7. Silvio Spann 76th), 13. Devaughn Elliot, 15. Mekeil Williams, 25. Christian Viveros, 29. Mickaeel Jem Gordon (14. Hashim Arcia 60th), 39. Alvin Jones, 65. Neil Benjamin Jr.

Unused substitutes—18. Jelani Archibald (GK), 2. Kurt Frederick, 19. Leslie Russell, 40. Jomol Williams

Coach—Stuart Charles Fevrier