Cambridge United U18's were successful in reaching the First Round Proper of The FA Youth Cup with a penalty shoot out victory against Stotfold Town.
United were deserved winners and should have won the game by in normal time by a comfortable margin if it wasn't for a string of simple goal scoring opportunities being wasted and a man of the match, outstanding performance by the home sides goal keeper.
United started brightly and carved open an early chance in the opening few moments. Clearly intent on setting a high tempo and playing a slick passing game, the U's looked like they were going to be in confident and ruthless mood in the opening exchanges.
However, it took just 10 minutes for the first goal, and it was the hosts who grabbed it. A ball over the top of a poorly positioned back 4 was pounced upon and slotted home. United came back strongly and dominated possession playing some exciting football. However the Stotfold stopper stood strong in the first half and a number of efforts went agonisingly just wide of post or over the bar.
A patient and vibrant young U's team returned for the second half and began to turn the screw even more. Akintunde, Scott and Lentell looked dangerous going forwards with pace and a number of good chances were poorly executed.
It was Javan Scott who allied the fears of being 'one of those nights' when he finished well on an angle just inside the box with 20 minutes remaining. The scholars continued to push for a winning goal and would've got it had it not been for more great work from the Stotfold No.1.
The game went to extra time and followed a similar pattern, although The U's looked so eager to win it, they were looking vulnerable and taking too many chances in their defensive play. This was no more visible than when they gifted the hosts No.9 the chance to break through one against one with the keeper to seal victory. Josh Banthorpe made a stunning double save to take the game to penalties.
Stotfolds first was fired over the bar and Nathan Heath's saved by the in form keeper. Banthorpe then saved brilliantly with George Coy scoring. The next two penalties were scored, George Doyle scoring for United. Stotfolds fourth was again blasted high over the bar and Ellis Lentell scored the 4th to give the U's victory and a First Round Tie with Woking or Cray Wanderers at The R Costings Abbey Stadium in November.
Mark Bonner said, "We're relieved. We're angry. We're frustrated. On another night we would have scored 10 but they may have won it 2-1 at the end. It was most important to go through. Some of our approach play was very good, we did well to keep plugging away to get a goal on a night where it seemed whatever happened we weren't going to score. After the goal we needed composure and we lacked that. The finishing phase needs to improve dramatically.
Our defensive play was shocking. We never dealt with one simple problem and going a goal behind in these games makes it tough. We took too many risks with the ball in defensive areas and lacked organisation and intelligence.
We held our nerve and now look forward to the next game."
Team: Banthorpe, North, Pring, Heath, Burns, Lowe (Coy 105), Horne, Doyle, Akintunde, Hogan (Scott 65), Cook (Lentell 55). Not Used; Joynes, Leavers