Fleetwood Town’s Under 18s earned their spot in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup on Friday evening as they managed to overcome Premier League side Crystal Palace 2-1 at Highbury.
Forward Covy Smith was active up top for the Cod Army once again as he bagged a brace on the night but after a penalty was awarded late on in the game, Palace were back in the game.
Town stood firm after that and held onto, meaning they have reached the fourth round of the competition for the second year in a row. This was the second successive season the U18s have beaten Premier League opposition at Highbury in the third round with history repeating itself this time out.
The first chance of the game fell to Town as Ben Thompson managed to capitalise on a weak ball between the Palace backline as the Fleetwood man found himself behind the defence but couldn’t quite organise his feet where Goodman rushed out and claimed the ball.
It was Palace who started to warm into the game then as Omilabu latched on the end of a through ball eight yards but a brave block from Town’s skipper Barratt denied any chance of the breakthrough from the right-hand side for the visitors.
More bravery came in form of Cod Army’s goalkeeper Conor Eastham rushing out of his goal to deny Akinwale the chance to slot home from a one-on-one as Town’s number one got the save away but collided with the Palace man and received treatment for a number of minutes, which saw Johnathon Borwick come on in his place.
Fleetwood’s defensive stability allowed the forwards to breed creativity in its masses with a number of chances starting with the composure of Harry Wilson and Danny Edwards in the middle who can push the ball forward to the front three of Cian Hayes, Smith and Joe Collins.
The grit and defensive determination of every player in a red shirt was rewarded just before half time as it was a lovely finish from Smith who pushed the ball inside from Collins onto his left foot away from two defenders to drive it into the bottom right corner which meant the hosts went into the break one goal to the good.
The visitors introduced some fresh legs at half time in a hope to break through Fleetwood’s stubborn defence as it was Palace who started the better of the two- an ambitious effort from Palace’s Siddik just in his own half had the whole of Highbury watching in anticipation but the effort fell onto Borwick’s roof of the net.
As Palace piled on the pressure, the more resilient Town’s defence became with Lewis Patterson and Sam Barratt winning every header and standing tall for every effort on goal to block.
A rare chance for the youngsters from Highbury as the opening sequence of the second half was dominated by the team from the south but a chance which was welcomed by Fleetwood as it meant the lead was doubled.
Edwards picked up the loose ball in the midfield and carried the ball with such determination over the half-way line, the number ten spread it wide to Hayes whose pace and trickery with the ball was devastating for the opposition defence, Hayes cutely slotted the ball to Smith on the left who slotted it into the far right corner leaving the keeper no chance.
With 15 minutes to go, the visitors were desperate to get back into the game - their efforts to do so was rewarded as they were given a golden ticket to half the deficit as Barratt looked to have drag down Akinwale in the box.
Omilabu stepped up for Crystal Palace and sent Borwick the wrong way which meant Fleetwood’s lead was halved.
It was backs against the walls for the Cod Army for the final 15 minutes as Palace were desperate for the all-important equaliser, but it’s an equaliser that never came due to an intense and resilient Fleetwood Town side throwing every last piece of energy they had to ensure the lead was secure and meant it was the hosts who progressed to the next round of the FA Youth Cup.