United under 18s 2 Cardiff City 3. Full time report
United's under-18s went out of the FA Youth Cup despite a terrific fight against Premier League Cardiff. Two goals from Josh Ashby, both from the spot, were not quite enough for Chris Allen's side but they should feel proud of their performance and an excellent cup run that saw them beat Swansea in the previous round.
United had started brightly but found themselves behind inside ten minutes when McCauley Southam gave Cardiff the lead. Southam picked up the ball in space on the right-hand corner of the penalty area before firing low into the far corner of the net.
Despite the setback of conceding an early goal, United didn’t let their heads drop and pressed Cardiff back. Greg Hackett displayed some remarkable dribbling skills on the half hour, drawing a foul on the touchline, but Josh Ashby’s well-driven free-kick evaded all the on-rushing United strikers. Hackett was again instrumental in sending Jamie Calvin away with a pin-point pass through the centre, but unfortunately the flag went up for offside.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though, and from an Abdi Noor run Ben Watkins sidefooted wide from 15 yards. In the 37th minute a Cardiff corner was met full on by Thomas James, forcing Barney Martin into a fine reaction save. However, that wasn’t the visitors’ final threat in an enthralling first half and in the last minute before the interval Noor raced clear to place a shot across Martin and double Cardiff’s lead.
United started the second half full of intent, going strong into tackles and chasing down the ball. They had a good opportunity on the hour mark when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the area, but Roberts’ shot went sailing over the bar.
Roberts was again the centre of attention in the 70th minute when, from a Hackett cross, he caught the ball sweetly on the volley to bring an excellent flying save out of Joe Massaro, who actually caught the ball. Two minutes later Hackett was on the end of a Grant pass and as he charged into the area he was felled by Dylan Rees. Up stepped Ashby to blast home the spot-kick and get United back into the game. Ashby continued his extraordinary record of scoring from the penalty spot in every round of this competition.
It looked all set for a storming finish but with ten minutes to go Cardiff sealed their chance to take on Chelsea in the next round when Tom Burridge blasted a 25 yard free-kick beyond Martin to make it 3-1.
Chris Allen’s boys deserve great credit for simply refusing to be beaten and on 85 they were back in the game as Watkins handled a Humphreys cross inside the box. Ashby kept his nerve to plant the ball in the same corner and at 2-3 it was game firmly on for the last five minutes.
With three minutes to go there was drama as top scorer James Roberts fired in a shot that smashed back off of the bar, but United had given their all and should feel great pride in their performance.
United: Martin, Clarke, Cundy, MacCormack, Grant, Hackett, Ashby, George, Humphreys, Calvin (Hayden), Roberts
Subs: Conte, Jeacock, Welch-Hayes, Golden