U18s Stage Second-Half Comeback to Stun Fulham in FA Youth Cup
Monday, 7th Dec 2020 21:14
Sub Harley Curtis netted the winning goal four minutes into injury time as Town’s U18s pulled off a remarkable second-half comeback to beat Fulham 3-2 in the third round of the FA Youth Cup at Portman Road. Having been deservedly 2-0 down at half-time to goals from Imani Lanquedoc and Mika Biereth, the Blues pulled one back through Brooklyn Kabongolo five minutes after the break, then Liam Gibbs converted a penalty in the 89th minute before Curtis (pictured) won it deep in injury time to seal Town's place in round four.
In freezing, foggy conditions, the visitors struck the game’s first shot in the ninth minute, but Mika Biereth’s effort from the edge of the box flew wide of Town keeper Lewis Ridd’s left post.
Two minutes later, Town left-back Alfie Armin was shown the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Luciano D’Auria-Henry.
Fulham, currently fifth in U18s Premier League South, had seen most of the ball in the early stages and in the 17th minute they went in front from the game’s first serious chance.
The ball was neatly worked in from the left before being stabbed out to Lanquedoc, who hit a powerful strike from the edge of the box which beat Ridd.
The Blues subsequently had spells of tidy possession but with Fulham looking more threatening and winning a number of free-kicks in the Town half.
On 25 Liam Gibbs, fresh from making his first league start against Charlton 10 days ago, made a strong break down the left and cut into the area for the Blues but ran into trouble before he was able to lay the ball off to team-mate.
Within a minute it was 2-0 to the Cottagers, Biereth slamming Ollie O’Neill’s low ball from the left into the net from close range.
Just after the half hour, the ball was taken away from Gibbs as he looked to shoot inside the area and broke to skipper Fraser Alexander in a promising position on the right but his low cross was cut out.
Town made a change in the 37th minute when striker Bello was replaced by Harley Curtis.
Fulham continued to control the game although without creating an opportunity which might lead to their third goal until first-half injury time Biereth was played into space on the right of the box and sent a dangerous ball across the Blues’ six-yard box but without anyone being able to get a touch on it.
The 2–0 scoreline at half-time was a fair enough reflection on a first half with the Blues never having been able to impose themselves on the impressive visitors.
Fulham, much like their senior side in the Carabao Cup tie at Portman Road earlier in the season, had moved the ball around slickly and quickly and although they had hardly created a hatful of chances, they had taken the two clear-cut ones they had carved out clinically.
Town should have pulled a goal back seconds after the restart. Following a break down down the right Zanda Siziba headed over the bar when the midfielder clearly thought he should have done better.
The Blues continued their promising start to the second half and in the 50th minute pulled a goal back. Gibbs sent over a free-kick from the left and central defender Kabongolo rose highest to power a header past Fulham keeper Alex Borto.
Town continued to keep pressing and in the 53rd minute Siziba curled a free-kick from 25 yards out over. A minute later the one-time Tottenham youngster claimed a penalty when he appeared to be manhandled as he chased a ball into the area.
On 55 Blues keeper Ridd was shown a yellow card after rushing out of his area and bringing down O’Neill but with plenty of defenders having got back to cover. Harvey Araujo’s free-kick deflected over off the wall.
Three minutes later, Ridd was unable to claim a corner on the right and eventually O’Neill struck a shot which caught a Town player and flew only just wide.
Town had been much better in the second half, albeit without having threatening to level until the 75th minute when Harley cut across to Gibbs from the right and the midfielder looked set to score until Stefan Parkes slid in to dispossess him.
Four minutes later, Gibbs curled a free-kick into Borto’s arms then Siziba hit another set piece from a similarly dangerous area over with Town increasingly looking the more likely scorers of the game’s fourth goal.
Town introduced schoolboys Nico Valentine and Jack Manly from the bench for Ben Wyss and Siziba as the match moved into its final 10 minutes. On 82 Ridd palmed a Fulham header over.
The Blues continued to push and a minute from time were awarded a penalty when sub Curtis, who had impressed since coming off the bench, was clumsily felled by Matt Dibley Dias in the area.
Referee Oliver Morris Sanders pointed straight to the spot and Gibbs slammed his spot-kick confidently into the roof of the net.
The Blues kept up the pressure in the closing stages and completed what had looked a hugely unlikely comeback at half-time in the fourth minute of injury time.
Another Gibbs free-kick was cleared but Valentine looped a header back behind the advancing Fulham defenders and Curtis beat the offside trap to volley home as Borto advanced off his line.
Town saw out the remaining additional time to confirm their place in round four after an extraordinary comeback.
At half-time the Blues looked to be out of the competition they won in 1973, 1975 and 2005 but having pulled a goal back shortly after the restart through Kabongolo, Adem Atay and Jason Dozzell’s side gained belief as the half wore on.
Fulham looked more and more on the ropes in the closing stages, particularly after Gibbs had netted his penalty and Curtis’s superbly taken winner sealed a memorable turnaround for the youngsters.
Town: Ridd, Wyss (Valentine 78), Armin, Alexander, Kabongolo, Baggott, Humphreys, Cutbush, Bello (Curtis 37), Gibbs, Siziba (Manly 81). Unused: Catley, Stewart, Chirewa, Bareck.
Fulham: Borto, D’Auria-Henry, Parkes, Bowat, O'Neill, Dibley Dias, Biereth, Pajaziti, Lanquedoc, Sanderson, Araujo. Subs: Odutayo, Benjamin, Chisholm, Olakigbe, Wildbore, Antonsson. Referee: Oliver Morris Sanders.
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