Our Under-18s produced a superb performance to dump holders Liverpool out in the third round of the FA Youth Cup on Monday night.
On the front foot at every opportunity, we deservedly went ahead at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium when striker Troy Parrott won and converted two penalties in 14 first-half minutes, only for Conor Bradley to pull one back for the visitors shortly before the break.
Layton Stewart curled home to bring the visitors – second in the northern section of the Under-18 Premier League – back level but we maintained our focus and stunned the Reds with two goals in as many minutes to effectively end the tie at 4-2. First, Max Robson made amends for a couple of spurned opportunities earlier in the game when he powered home J’Neil Bennett’s cross, with substitute Chay Cooper making sure on the break within 60 seconds.
With Liverpool’s defence of the trophy ended at the first hurdle, we now go to either Wigan Athletic or Croydon in round four.
We really took the game to the Reds in an open, exciting first half. A rip-roaring first quarter-of-an-hour yielded eight chances – five for us and three for them – before we took the lead. Parrott was denied by last man Remi Savage as he ran through the middle inside three minutes, the excellent Dennis Cirkin’s shot was deflected over, Bennett – often outstripping his marker down the left – had an effort ruled out for off-side and then set up Robson with a golden chance in the box, but his side-footed effort went straight at keeper Harvey Davies. Kallum Cesay then sent a half-volley fractionally wide while Thimothee Lo-Tutala twice denied Tom Hill at the other end, following Jake Cain’s early rasper that flew wide.
Parrott, though, was all over Liverpool’s back four and after running onto Tarrelle Whittaker’s pass down the right, he was fouled by the advancing Davies before drilling home the resulting penalty on 17 minutes. And it was the same again 14 minutes later, Parrott this time showing great awareness in the box to pounce on a loose pass before being wiped out by Davies, the Republic of Ireland international powering his spot kick into the roof of the net.
We were well worthy of our two-goal lead but a lapse in concentration on 44 minutes saw Liverpool get themselves back into the tie. Midfielder Harvey White went to ground and appealed for a free-kick but play continued, the ball was cut back from the left and it evaded everyone except the arriving Bradley, who ran onto it and sent the ball spinning inside the far post with a sweet strike. There was one final chance for us in first-half added time when Bennett picked out Robson with a cross from the left, but it seemed to catch the midfielder by surprise and he wasn’t able to turn it on target.
You sensed that chance might come back to haunt us as Liverpool put the pressure on after the restart but we stayed composed and refused to succumb. Lo-Tutala brilliantly saved Hill’s header in the box, although when Leighton Clarkson switched play to Stewart on the left side, he found a pocket of space and fired across the keeper into the far corner to level it up on 63 minutes.
We showed great maturity to rebound and regain the upper hand, however. Cirkin went on a dazzling solo run before forcing a fine save from Davies with a shot on his weaker foot, with Cooper firing over the top as he ran onto the loose ball, but when Bennett advanced down the left once more and sent in a cross, Robson headed home to restore our lead with 14 minutes left. And in a flash, we were two goals to the good once more as we suddenly poured forward, Cooper one of three players racing clean through on goal and he rolled it home to the delight of our players and fans alike. Managing the game to stay ahead in the last 10 minutes, it was an encouraging all-round display from our young players.
(official Tottenham Hotspur)