Neil Benjamin Jr. scored his 15th goal in all competitions this season to lift W Connection to a 1-0 win over Super League side Guaya United on Wednesday night to complete the last four of the 2017 FA Trophy.
Connection, FA champions of 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2013-14, joined Pro League compatriots and former champions Morvant Caledonia United and Police FC, and 1976 FC Phoenix—the last remaining team of 19 Super League clubs that were part of the competition this season—into the semi-final round which is expected to be contested on November 26.
The random draw for the semi-final round is expected next week.
Phoenix, due to flight delays out of Tobago which resulted the game starting more than half hour late, had to step off the bus and onto the pitch for Wednesday’s opening game of another quarter-final double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training field.
But coach Terry Williams’s side were celebrating their opening goal in only the second minute thanks to forward Andel Noray, who bagged both goals in the Tobagonians 2-0 win over Point Fortin Civic to eventually avoid an all-Pro League FA Trophy semi-finals.
Noray, who, in the past represented Joe Public, San Juan Jabloteh and Defence Force at the Pro League level, headed past Civic second choice goalie Akini Adams for the early lead off a long throw-in -- assisted by the crosswind -- from the right by dreadlocked defender Simon Nedd.
Phoenix quickly went on the defensive and played on the counterattack through Noray, Noel Williams and Shelton Williams—a move that will work in favour of the Tobagonians.
Phoenix were almost impenetrable at the back on the smaller sized pitch and did find the cushion six minutes into the second half when Noray converted from the penalty spot -- with Trinidad and Tobago and Civic’s first choice ‘keeper Marvin Phillip watching from the bench -- after he was bulldozed to ground in the area by defender Kevon Rouse.
Civic’s best chance fell to second-half substitute Shaquille Dublin on the hour mark but the forward failed to make contact to Shackiel Henry’s cross from the right which beat the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Junior Roberts.
Henry then sent a powerful free kick inches wide of Roberts’s goal ten minutes from time, but Phoenix were denied a third by the crossbar when Dominique Kerr let fly a shot from the top of the box six minutes from time.
In the second game, Guaya, spurred on by their travelling supporters, enjoyed a flurry of early chances however Ron La Forest’s side’s best effort came three minutes into the second half when ex-Connection midfielder Andrei Pacheco sent a 30-yard left-footed strike inches wide of the top corner.
Connection, though, would snatch the eventual winner in the 79th minute when Benjamin put a low Dimitrie Apai cross into the back of the Erskine Johnson’s net after the Green Army ‘keeper had made a bag of brilliant saves to keep his side level with the Pro League powerhouse.
Moments earlier Johnson, who had done well to deny Marcus Joseph and Triston Hodge on either side of the break, made a brilliant double-save in the 68th minute denying Joseph then Apai on the rebound following a blistering run and cross from the right by Benjamin.
Stuart Charles Fevrier’s side, however, would end on a bitter-sweet note after Trinidad and Tobago defender Triston Hodge was sent off in stoppage-time on a direct red card for elbowing Guaya substitute Russell Alfred.
Morvant Caledonia, the 2009, 2011-12 and 2012-13 FA champions, were the first team to qualify for this season’s FA Trophy semis, narrowly getting by Super League’s Club Sando Moruga who gave away a penalty at the death on Tuesday before Police FC snapped Defence Force’s six-game winning streak in all competitions, defeating the Army/Coast Guard combination for the first time this season with a 3-1 comeback win.
Defence Force, however, will look rebound with defence of their First Citizens Cup when they take on W Connection in the 2017 final on November 17 at the Ato Boldon Stadium while Point Fortin Civic and Club Sando will contest the third-place game.
Point Fortin Civic 0 vs 1976 FC Phoenix 2 (Andel Noray 2’, 51’ pen.), at Hasely Crawford Stadium training field;
Guaya United 0 vs W Connection 1 (Neil Benjamin Jr. 79’), at Hasely Crawford Stadium training field.
Quarter-Final Team 1
Point Fortin Civic: 52.Akini Adams (GK) (Capt.); 8.Jamal John, 10.Jabari Mitchell, 12.Nathaniel Garcia, 23.Kevon Rouse, 24.Akinola Gregory (25.Shaquille Dublin 56th minute), 26.Jeremiah Kesar, 28.Aelon Minors (90.Jared Bennett 65th minute), 33.Justin Sadoo, 45.Shackiel Henry, 99.Kevin Moodie (21.Juma Clarence 56th minute).
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 16.Kelvin Modeste, 17.Kestwin Goolie, 30.Nion Lammy.
Coach: Reynold Carrington
1976 FC Phoenix: 25.Junior Roberts (GK) (Capt.); 2.Dave Grimshaw, 6.Simon Nedd, 7.Andel Brown, 9.Shelton Williams, 12.Nigel Thomas (5.Steffon Hector 93rd minute), 15.Andel Noray, 18.Kaleb Douglas, 19.Dominique Kerr, 20.Rohan Sebro (8.James Thomas 89th minute), 23.Noel Williams.
Unused substitutes: 1.Jeffrey Delpeche (GK); 11.Lejandro Williams, 81.Shemel Crichlow.
Coach: Terry Williams
Referee: Joel Cox
Quarter-Final Team 2
Guaya United: 16.Erskine Johnson (GK); 4.Kheelon Ferrier, 8.Kion Joseph, 9.Shaquille Ferrier (5.Russell Alfred 81st minute), 10.Karlon Hughes, 19.Beville Joseph, 22.Justin Fournillier, 24.Glenton Wolfe (Capt.), 26.Kevin Jagdeosingh (6.Keryn Navarro 75th minute), 29.Andrei Pacheco, 77.Leroy Jones.
Unused substitutes: 1.Shane Mattis (GK); 7.Jody Allsop, 11.Kendes Garcia, 25.Keston Frontin, 28.Keston Jordan.
Coach: Ron La Forest
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 3.Gerard Williams, 5.Triston Hodge, 7.Neil Benjamin Jr., 10.Dimitri Apai, 13.Hughtun Hector, 16.Alvin Jones, 19.Briel Thomas (21.Ronell Paul 20th minute) (Red Card), 23.Weslie John, 24.Jameel Antoine, 99.Marcus Joseph (11.Shirvone Malik St. Prix 85th minute).
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK); 2.Frank Padilla Gil, 14.Euller Eduardo Couto, 26.Isaiah Garcia, 30.Shaquille John.
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Referee: Rodphin Harris