Last-Gasp Winner Sees U18s Into Final
Thursday, 28th Jul 2022 23:49 by Jude Gale
Town U18s won a place in this year’s SuperCupNI final after coming from behind to beat Mexican side Club Puebla 2-1 via a last-gasp winner in Seahaven, Portstewart on Thursday evening.
The young Blues, who were 4-1 winners over Vendee in their final group game on Wednesday evening after drawing 1-1 with County Fermanagh on Tuesday and beating San Francisco Glens 2-0 in their opening match on Monday, were victorious in the semi-finals thanks to goals from Ash Boatswain and Jack Manly (pictured).
The side from Mexico opened the scoring in the 20th minute of the game, but the Tractor Boys grabbed a late goal in both halves to overturn the scoreline and claim a place in the final.
It was a very even first 15 minutes with few chances as a result of solid defending from both teams.
Town found most of their joy through Nico Valentine as he used his electric speed to burn off defenders and win numerous free-kicks in good positions down the right-hand side.
Puebla took the game to Ipswich in the following 10 minutes and began causing several problems for Town’s defence with many sharp combination plays along the byline.
One particular move ended with Puebla right winger crossing into a dangerous area which forced Calum Logan into a vital clearance.
Town’s opposition were again close to clinching the first shortly after as a corner ball was headed just over the crossbar.
Sustained pressure from Puebla earned them a goal in the 20th minute as their rapid right winger was again involved, this time pulling back to his team-mate, who clinically finished into the top right corner after beating Nick Nkansa-Dwamena to the ball in the box.
The first half continued in similar fashion with the Blues holding little possession whilst struggling to grab a foothold of the game, something which Town hadn’t experienced in their previous three games.
Manly almost inspired an equaliser in the 33rd minute as he rushed onto a loose ball before striking a left-footed long shot from 25 yards which went just wide of the post.
Smart thinking from Finley Barbrook led to Town’s leveller as he took a quick throw-in to send Valentine on a run which caught Puebla’s defence off guard. The England U17s call-up pulled the ball back to Paul Moodie, who unleashed a driven ball into the heart of the box before the faintest of touches from Boatswain directed the ball into the left corner.
The half-time whistle was blown as soon as play restarted after the goal, with the match played in two halves of 35 minutes, meaning Town and Puebla walked into the changing rooms level.
Both sides came out after the break aware of the importance of not conceding next. The opening 10 minutes passed with the only shot on goal being a Puebla long shot which was held well by Ipswich goalkeeper, Danny Cullum.
Town then came into their own with some fantastic pieces of combination play, including a lovely move which involved Nkansa-Dwamena, Boatswain and Valentine, which won the Tractor Boys a free-kick in a dangerous position.
With only 17 minutes remaining, Town players had keeper Cullum to thank for what was a terrific save as the Mexican forward found himself within close range of goal before unleashing a strike towards the near post.
Afi Adebayo made an instant impact off the bench in the second half and Ipswich looked closer to taking the lead with only 10 minutes remaining.
The Blues were sure that they had won it after Finley Barbrook played a ball in behind to Manly, who placed the ball beyond the keeper before Puebla’s centre-half rushed back to clear off the line.
Two minutes away from extra-time, powerful work from Manly won himself a free-kick on the left-hand side of the box. With Manly’s well-known ability over a dead ball, Town filled the box with numbers as they anticipated a delivery of high quality. The ball was perfectly whipped into the danger zone and flew past every player before falling into the bottom right corner without a touch or deflection.
Town’s celebrations had to be cut short as they re-focused knowing that Club Puebla would pile on the pressure throughout the remaining few minutes.
The team battled hard to see out the game with Cullum again called into action to make a vital save at the death before the whistle for full-time blew.
The young Ipswich side now look ahead to the final of the Premier Section of the Super Cup NI, formerly known as the Milk Cup, in which they will play County Antrim on Friday evening at the Ballymena Showgrounds in hope of lifting the club’s first ever Super Cup NI trophy.
U18s: Danny Cullum, Nick Nkansa-Dwamena, Finn Steele, Calum Logan, Harry Barbrook, Paul Moodie, Finley Barbrook, Jack Manly, Nico Valentine (Ben Haddoch 55), Ash Boatswain, Alex Graham (Afi Adebayo 42).
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