U18s Exit Premier Cup at Leiston
Tuesday, 6th Feb 2018 23:41 by James Ager
Town's U18s suffered last-minute heartbreak in their Suffolk Premier Cup quarter-final tie at a freezing Victory Road on Tuesday evening as Bostik League Premier Division Leiston came from behind to win 2-1. Idris El Mizouni's opener just before the break was cancelled out by Chris Henderson and Joe Jefford netted in stoppage time to secure the win for the home side.
Town, who were overseen by Geraint Williams and Adem Atay on the night, named youngster Kai Brown on their bench in what was his first involvement in a matchday squad since his recent signing from Grays Athletic.
Leiston fielded former Town trialist Marcus Garnham in goal and ex-Blues Kyle Hammond, Seb Dunbar, Jack Ainsley and Byron Lawrence in their starting XI.
Garnham was called into action as early as the second minute when Jack Lankester cut in from the left and curled a right-footed shot towards the bottom, which the keeper did well to keep out.
At the other end Jefford lifted the bouncing ball over Town's crossbar from six yards out after a corner hadn't been cleared.
Town hit back though and they should have taken the lead in the seventh minute. Lawrence was penalised for handball on the edge of his own box and Brett McGavin's subsequent freekick forced Garnham into another smart save down low.
However, El Mizouni reacted first and somehow hit the post from close range with the goal gaping, before Thomas Hughes's follow-up from a tighter angle was blocked on the line.
Ten minutes later Garnham saved Tom Bullard's blushes after a defensive mix-up by clawing the ball away from danger, and the former Woodbridge and Bury Town keeper got down well to deny Lankester again following good work from Lounes Foudil.
Just before the half hour, Nick Hayes was tested for the first time but he comfortably gathered Henderson's low effort, while Foudil was next to test Garnham with a swerving effort from long range that was palmed away to safety.
On 36 the hosts nearly took the lead against the run of play when Patrick Brothers intercepted a pass and released Christy Finch, but the striker hit his shot across Hayes and off the foot of the far post.
However, Town did deservedly open the scoring in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half. The ball was played across to Frenchman El Mizouni on the left corner of the box and he stepped inside before curling a fine effort into the far top corner of the net.
Two minutes after the restart Foudil drove forward and scuffed a left foot shot inches wide of Garnham's post, while Hayes was on hand to keep Hammond's back post header out soon after.
On 55 Leiston equalised when the ball was cleverly moved across the Town area from the right side. Hayes did well to block Matt Blake's initial effort but Henderson followed up and placed the rebound into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later Hayes again did well to block a near-post effort from Dunbar, and although Blake was unable to connect with the loose ball, Henderson did but he skewed his shot wide of the target.
Hayes then produced another fine save to keep another Blake effort out during a spell of relentless pressure from the home side, although Lankester was inches away from connecting with a fine cross into the box from Brett McGavin midway through the second half.
Leiston soon resumed their assault on the Town goal and Finch was next to be denied by some excellent goalkeeping from Hayes, who thwarted the hosts again on 83 when he kept Henderson's low drive out. Blake somehow nodded the rebound wide of the target from inside the six yard box.
But the Town keeper was finally beaten again in the second of four additional minutes. A low corner from the right was only cleared as far as Hammond, and his chipped ball back into the danger area was headed back across goal and into the far corner by centre-back Jefford.
Town's youngsters really should have been more than one up at the interval after dominating much of the opening period against a full-strength Leiston side.
The hosts, who have now knocked Town out of the Premier Cup in each of the last three seasons, controlled much of the second half though, and only some excellent saves from Hayes kept a battling Town side in the game at times.
U18s: Hayes, Ronan, Barley, McGavin, Marshall, Vega, Cahill (Murrell 78), El Mizouni (K Brown 85), Lankester, Foudil (Wilton 71), Hughes. Unused: Ware, Henry. Att: 153.
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