Smith rises to occasion once more for Zebras
Shakir Smith, the PHC striker, is fast earning a reputation for scoring big goals when it matters most.
Yesterday proved to be no exception as Smith's late winner at PHC Field sent Zebras through to their first Friendship Trophy final in seven seasons and sixteenth overall.
With the teams deadlocked at 1-1 and the game drifting towards extra time, Smith banged in the winner with laserlike precision eight minutes from the end to complete his team's successful comeback.
Zebras fell behind to Pierre Smith's early header before Casey Castle equalised midway through the first half to leave the game hanging in the balance until Smith's late heroics.
Zebras, who made four changes to their line-up from the one that beat Robin Hood seven days earlier with Cecoy Robinson, the captain, and defender Na'eem Griffith among those unavailable, were forced to chase the game as Village took only three minutes to make the breakthrough.
Smith was given too much space to roam freely in the area and the Village striker took full advantage by nodding in Dakai Grant's cross to give the inaugural Friendship Trophy winners the lead.
Village's goal came as no surprise as they seized early control and stretched PHC with their slick ball movement.
After weathering the early storm and winning the battle in midfield, PHC began to apply some pressure of their own with Castle the main threat with his worrying pace.
Castle fired a warning shot from the edge of the box that Jason Williams, the Village goalkeeper, turned around the post for a corner.
The PHC striker, however, would not be denied moments later as he struck with a cool finish to draw the teams level.
Castle was left with the simple task of taping in after Tristan Hall and Marco Warren linked up inside the box.
PHC were now in full flow with college trio Tre Ming, Hall and Warren covering plenty of ground in midfield and keeping the supply lines open for Castle and Smith to run Village's back four ragged.
Williams made a save with his legs to deny Hall and then PHC had a confident appeal for a penalty ignored after Warren went tumbling in the box as the home side threatened to run away with the match.
Williams was called into action again early in the second half to thwart another PHC attack. He raced off his line to beat Castle in a foot race for a dangerous through ball.
Village regained the momentum and nearly the lead as Hall raced outside of the box to head the ball away from Keishen Bean, the Village captain, who replaced Smith as striker at the start of the second half.
Hall also had to be at his best to save from Demetre Daniels. The Village midfielder had PHC fans gasping for air again when his volley on the turn fizzed past the upright with Hall in no-man's-land.
Village seemed to run out of gas towards the end and PHC, sensing blood, moved in for the kill with Castle and Smith leading the charge up front.
After Castle softened up the Village defence with some penetrative runs, Smith delivered the knockout punch that floored the visiting side for good.
Smith took the ball off of Castle's feet after he lost his balance on a quick break and fired past Williams to complete PHC's impressive fightback.
PHC will now face Somerset Trojans in the Friendship Trophy final at Somerset Cricket Club on New Year's Day.
The game will kick-off at 2.30pm, with the First Division Shield final between BAA and X-Roads Warriors at 12pm.
Castle 28, Smith 82
North Village 1
PHC Zebras (4-4-2): T Hall — J Raynor, K Griffith, M Lambe, J Carpenter — R DeShields, T Ming (sub: I Sharrieff, 88min), Tristan Hall (sub: M Burchall, 68), M Warren — S Smith (sub: D Joell, 89), C Castle. Substitutes not used: D Usher, S Trott, J Ball, M Piper. Booked: Castle, Lambe.
North Village (4-5-1): J Williams — T Fray, J Harvey, R Sampson, D Grant — P Parsons, K Bean, S Hollis (sub: A Furbert, 82), D Daniels (sub: J Bell, 88) J Lee (sub: J Lee, Z Bowen, 88) — P Smith. Substitutes not used: V Tankard, E Zuill, J Samuels.
Referee: A Mouchette.