Norwich City U18s 5 Middlesbrough 4 – Incredible comeback keeps Canaries in FA Youth Cup
- Credit: JASON DAWSON/JASONPIX
The FA Youth Cup dream is still alive for Norwich City after a quite brilliant and dramatic fifth round battle with Middlesbrough at Carrow Road this evening.
Graeme Murty's team were 4-1 down in the 61st minute and looking shell-shocked after allowing their early 1-0 lead to slip away but rallied to complete an amazing comeback.
Spectacular strikes from Glenn Middleton and Louis Ramsay took the tie to extra-time and Todd Cantwell then pounced late in the first half of extra-time to score the winner in a 5-4 thriller.
After the painful recent 5-4 loss to Liverpool for City's first team, the victory felt all the more satisfying for more than 1,000 supporters who braved the chilly conditions – and set up a trip to Manchester City in the last eight of the competition.
The evening had started so well for the young Canaries, who took the lead in just the seventh minute.
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Cantwell jinked his way into the Boro area and was chopped down by Boro centre-back Niall McGoldrick to win a penalty.
The Dereham youngster dusted himself down to calmly roll the spot-kick into the bottom-right corner, sending visiting keeper Aynsley Pears the wrong way.
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That early optimism soon drifted away though, as Boro scored three goals in 15 minutes to take control of the tie.
Good work from Lee Hetherington on the left wing saw his cross find Mitchell Curry unmarked in the middle of the penalty area, who wrong-footed Aston Oxborough and calmly rolled into the net from 12 yards in the 10th minute.
Curry could well have had a penalty after tangling with City skipper Joe Crowe seven minutes later but saw his appeal waved away.
The midfielder then doubled his tally in the 22nd minute, showing quick feet to retain possession in the penalty box and curling a low shot into the bottom-right corner.
The hosts looked dazed by the turnaround and fell further behind just three minutes later.
Boro captain Alexander Pattison spread the ball to the right to Harrison Chapman, who fired a low shot under the exposed Oxborough for 3-1 in the 25th minute.
The City keeper had to make a fine save two minutes later, after Pattison unleashed an excellent low effort from the edge of the box, but Oxborough turned the ball around his right-hand post.
The hosts started to find their feet again and a clever back-heel from Cantwell allowed Jamal Lewis to attack from the left, with Pears juggling the cross but beating the lurking Benny Ashley-Seal to the ball to end the danger.
Aside from a call from Middleton for a penalty late in the half, claiming handball after his cross, there was little else to warm the small crowd before the break.
Boro then took complete control of the tie early in the second half, substitute Patrick Reading first thundering a shot against the crossbar before Lee Hetherington made it 4-1, turning home a Chapman corner in the 61st minute.
Oxborough made a great diving save to deny Reading's cushioned header soon after – before the Canaries finally started a comeback.
Jamal Lewis exchanged passes with Ashley-Seal and blasted a shot wide in the 68th minute.
Ashley-Seal then scored his sixth goal of the cup run, turning home nicely after a cross from the left from Middleton to keep the match alive.
The striker then barged his way through and forced a good save from Pears, before the tie was truly brought back to life.
Speedy winger Middleton rifled home from just inside the box to keep hopes of the comeback alive, with the seventh goal of the night.
Middleton then nearly scored again, after a brilliant pass through from Cantwell, but saw his effort well saved at the near post by Pears.
The equaliser did arrive though – in sensational style.
Ramsay burst forward from right-back to win a corner and Cantwell's set-piece was then headed clear to Ramsay, who unleashed a half-volley from over 25 yards which curled and clattered into the net off the far post.
It sparked wild celebrations and saw the game head into extra-time.
With many of the young players already looking tired, there were several stoppages for cramp and very little fluid play during extra-time.
The hosts dug deep though and found the magic moment to complete a quite incredible comeback – Cantwell the man in the right place at the right time.
Louis McIntosh kept possession and fellow substitute George Couzens spread the ball to the right to Lewis, whose cross was spilled by Pears and Cantwell managed to poke home from close range and spark jubilant scenes.
The Canaries now head to Manchester City in the sixth round of the competition, in a match which will be played at the 47,000-capacity Etihad Stadium.
NCFC U18s: Oxborough; Ramsay, Crowe (C – Sambu 96), Odusina, Syme; Pollock (McIntosh 60); Cantwell, Godfrey; Lewis, Ashley-Seal (Couzens 80), Middleton. Unused subs: Hale-Brown (GK), Fleming.
Goals: Cantwell (pen 7, 103), Ashley-Seal (69), Middleton (80), Ramsay (88)
Boro U18s: Pears; Hegarty (Holdsworth 116), McGoldrick, Cook, Coulson; Tavernier, Pattison (C – Renton 90 +2); Curry, Hetherington, Chapman; Jakupovic (Reading 46). Unused subs: Dawson (GK), Connvery.
Goals: Curry (10, 22), Chapman (25), Hetherington (61)
Referee: Mr A Young