Fleetwood Town’s Under 18s produced a superb display as they beat Carlisle United 2-1 in the FA Youth Cup first round on Thursday night at Highbury Stadium.
Sam O’Halleron put Town into the lead after just eight minutes, guiding his header into the bottom corner from Kian Makepeace’s cross.
Liam McCarron equalised for Carlisle before half-time, but Shayden Morris’ stunning effort restored the lead for Town as they ran out 2-1 winners on the night to progress to the next round.
Town went into the game on the back of a five game unbeaten run, winning four and drawing one, the latest triumph of which was a 3-2 win over Mansfield Town in the Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday.
Coach Simon Wiles kept faith in that starting 11 by fielding an unchanged side, with Dylan Boyle, Carl Johnston and Barry Crowe-Baggely featuring on the bench having returned from international duty for Northern Ireland Under 18s in three European Championship qualifiers.
Town started the match positively with Makepeace, who was playing on the left wing, and Ryan Rydel linking up well on the left leading to O’Halleron winning an early corner.
The Carlisle defence cleared well, but it didn’t take long for Town’s early pressure to pay off, taking the lead after just eight minutes.
The ball was played out to Makepeace on the left, and O’Halleron headed into the bottom corner from his pinpoint curling cross to get Town off to a dream start.
Carlisle then had their first chance of the match in the 18th minute when Taylor Charters hit one from distance, and it was just wide of Town keeper Scott Pengelly’s right post.
Town were close to doubling their lead when Makepeace made a good run and pulled the ball back to Rydel, whose shot from the edge of the area crashed off the crossbar.
Rydel then almost turned provider when O’Halleron met his cross - the Town striker almost scored his second but he guided his header just wide.
Carlisle almost found an equaliser when Keighran Kerr burst into the area, but defender James Hill produced a stunning last-ditch tackle to deny the forward.
But didn't take long for the away side to respond when in the 40th minute striker Kerr flicked the ball on to McCarron in the box and his shot found the bottom corner to make it 1-1.
The two sides went into the break all level, and Town were forced into a substitution as Dylan Boyle replaced the injured Jamie Cooke at the break.
Carlisle started the second half well when goalscorer McCarron turned on the edge of the box before his shot was deflected for a corner.
Kerr’s ball was swung into the back post, and full back Charlie Barnes almost met the ball at the back post but couldn't quite get there.
There was a massive chance for Town to regain their lead in the 52nd minute when Jay Matete produced a trademark burst forward from midfield, his strike from distance was well saved by Ward and O'Halleron couldn't quite get on the end of the rebound.
Matete then drove forward again just minutes later but was this time dispossessed, and Carlisle broke with Kerr on the left - once again Hill cleared the danger.
Town took the lead after 56 minute and what a goal it was. Morris, who scored two goals against Mansfield at the weekend, found space in the area and smashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner of the net. The Town players raced off in celebration and it was no more than they deserved.
After 66 minutes Crowe-Baggley replaced Makepeace, who gave his all throughout the match.
Rydel continued to be the driving force for Town, bursting forward on numerous occasions – he saw his first effort go agonisingly wide of the bottom corner and his second well blocked by Carlisle captain Cieran Casson.
The away side were not for going down without a fight, and Kerr drew a wonderful save from Pengelly after finding space in the box.
Matete then swung in a corner that was met by Hill – the Town defender rose highest but couldn't hit the target with his header.
Town looked to see the game out and protect their one goal lead as they brought on Carl Johnston for O'Halleron with eight minutes to go.
Carlisle introduced Kyle Soper and Belchoir Papa to the fold, replacing Liam McCarron and Jarrad Branthwaite, as they pressed forward looking to send the game to extra time.
They almost got their goal in the dying minutes when substitute Josh Galloway cut in on his right foot to evade Boyle, and his curling effort was just over.
Town took the ball into the corner as Crowe-Baggely and Liam Goldsborough did well to run the clock down, and it was enough to see them over the line as the referee blew the full-time whistle to the cheers of the Highbury crowd.
Town XI: Pengelly (GK), Goldsborough, Rydel, Williams, Hill ©, Cooke (Boyle 45’), Morris, Mashigo, O’Halleron (Johnston 82’), Matete, Makepeace (Crowe-Baggley 66’).
Subs not used: Clayton (GK), McCarragher.
Carlisle United XI: Ward (GK), Barnes, Brockbank, Casson ©, Lightfoot (Papa 86’), Wilson, McCarron (Soper 86’), Branthwaite, Kerr, Charters, Birch (Galloway 36’).
Subs not used: Armstrong, McLachlan.