Cup Heartache For Youngsters

Abdoulaye Toure

STOKE CITY U18s exited the FA Youth Cup at the fourth round stage on Thursday evening following an entertaining and dramatic encounter with high-flying Everton.

The Toffees had stormed into a two goal lead inside the opening 16 minutes at the bet365 Stadium before Richard Walker’s side staged a superb second half comeback to force extra time.

Ethon Varian was the man who managed it when he firstly fired home a rebound on 71 minutes, before the striker netted with seconds left on the clock following a goalmouth scramble.

The Potters went on to look the more likely to force a winner in the ensuing 30 minutes, however a penalty shootout was ultimately required to decide the outcome.

After City scored their first penalty through James Jennings, saved efforts from their next three spot-kicks allowed the Toffees to secure victory and a place in the fifth round.

On a foggy and cold evening in the Potteries, the away side started on the front foot and took the lead inside the opening 180 seconds when Anthony Gordon’s centre was turned in by Ellis Simms.

The hosts responded to that early setback and almost pulled themselves level in the sixth minute as the lively Abdoulaye Toure burst forward and curled narrowly over the upright.

Having started to gain a foothold in the contest, the Potters suffered another sucker punch in the 16th minute when Everton doubled their lead through a scrumptious goal by Mackenzie Hunt who fired an 18-year effort in off the underside of the bar.

Once again, City didn’t let their heads drop and quickly went in search of pulling a goal back with Nathan Collins and James Jennings both heading off target following deep deliveries into the box.

An excellent opportunity then presented itself just past the half hour mark when Varian outmuscled a defender, broke clear, and with only the keeper to beat, laid the ball back to Toure who fired over from just inside the box.

The winger was in the thick of the action all evening and shortly after the interval he cut in from the left flank and drilled a shot narrowly wide of the far post.

The Potters were starting to build some momentum as the half wore on and after Jennings had an effort from range saved by the keeper, they pulled one back in the 71st minute.

Adam Porter saw his 20-yard free-kick expertly pushed onto the post by the keeper, before the rebound came back into play and Varian poked in from close range.

That goal gave City extra belief, and with a vocal support behind them, they managed to take the tie into extra time with literally seconds remaining on the referee’s watch.

A corner caused mayhem in the Toffees box and after the keeper dropped the ball, a goalmouth scramble ensued, in which Varian managed to get a crucial touch to force the ball home.

An extra 30 minutes then followed where Walker’s troops had the best chance to win the tie in the final throws when William Forrester directed agonisingly off target when free inside the six-yard area.

A penalty shootout was ultimately required to find a winner and it was the Toffees who came out on top to secure their place in the next round of the prestigious cup competition.

Stoke City: Broome: Murphy (Coates 65), Macari, Stanton (Malone 46), Collins, Forrester, Jarrett (Sanali), Porter, Jennings, Varian, Toure (Jones 119): Unused: Cooper.

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AcademyTeamFA Youth Cup