Fleetwood Town’s Under 18s made history after reaching the FA Youth Cup fourth round after beating Premier League side Watford on penalties at Highbury on Tuesday night.
The teams drew 2-2 after 90 minutes, with substitute Enoch Takpe forcing extra-time after an injury-time equaliser. It was another substitute in Kai Steer who held his nerve and scored the winning spot-kick, after goalkeeper Scott Pengelly had saved two penalties in the shoot-out.
Two goals from Watford captain Dominic Hutchinson looked to have sent The Hornets through, although Kian Makepeace did level the scores late in the first half. However, it was joy for Simon Wiles’ side and a piece of history with either Milwall or Bolton awaiting in the Fourth Round.
Wiles’ side started the game well with Makepeace causing problems in attack. He picked out midfielder Sam Barrett inside five minutes, but his shot was well blocked by visitors defender Jack Burchell. Pengelly then made a smart save at the other end to deny JJ McHiernan.
The away side did go ahead on 22 minutes, with Hutchinson grabbing his first of the night. He latched onto a nice through ball from Sonny Blu-Lo Everton and open the scoring. Almost instantly, Fleetwood had a chance to score but James Hill headed Barry Baggley’s cross over the crossbar from close range.
Makepeace did however get his goal, just five minutes before the break. After good work from Carl Johnston, Makepeace composed himself in the area, beat a man and slotted past Dante Baptiste to make it all square at the break.
Both sides played the second half at a real tempo, but clear cut chances were limited until the final 20 minutes. Makepeace was replaced by the lively Joe Collins, but he couldn’t convert one of two chances he had. The first was after an error in the Watford defence, but he could only mistime his effort and Burchell cleared.
His second chance was clearer, a header from Liam Goldsborough’s cross but it was well saved by Baptiste. These misses looked to have cost his side, as Watford went down the other end and looked to have won it through Hutchinson with just a minute on the clock.
Wiles through on Takpe in injury time, and the striker produced the goods with a superb headed finish. The Cod Army played a quick corner, which saw Baggley put a deep cross into the area which was headed in by the striker to spark incredible scenes at Highbury. The sides were heading from extra-time!
Extra-time was tight, with both sides showing signs of fatigue, but it looked as though Fleetwood were the stronger of the two and could have been ahead early in the first period through Collins, but again Baptiste made a good save.
That was as good as it got for either side, so it was penalties to sort this tie out.
With the scores level at 3-3 after four penalties each, Pengelly saved Kamil Conteh’s penalty, meaning all Steer had to do was score past Baptiste to seal the tie. He stepped up and the rest is history. A memorable night for all involved.
Fleetwood: Pengelly, Goldsborough, Batch, Boyle, Hill, Patterson, Johnston, Barrett, Makepeace, Baggley, Hayes. Subs: Borwick (GK), Sithole, Collins, Takpe, Steer, Edwards, Smith.
Watford: Baptiste, Conteh, Maclean, Lawal, Burchell, Janjeva, Harrison, Thompson, Hutchinson, Lo-Everton, McHiernan. Subs: Marriott (GK), Evans, Hall, Sankoh, Muwonge, Hunter, Andrews.