Blues kids on the brink
IPSWICH Town are only 90 minutes away from winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1975.The young Blues produced a battling performance to gain a 2-2 draw away at Southampton and it has now set up thesecond leg that will be played at Portman Road on Friday night.
IPSWICH Town are only 90 minutes away from winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1975.
The young Blues produced a battling performance to gain a 2-2 draw away at Southampton and it has now set up the
second leg that will be played at Portman Road on Friday night.
The Saints, who had already beaten Ipswich twice this season on their way to the under-18s league title, started the tie as favourites.
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Town were without striker Billy Clarke, who suffered a medial knee ligament injury in the second leg of the semi-final at Tottenham last week.
Clarke was at the St Mary's Stadium to support his team-mates but was still on crutches and has also been ruled out of Friday's second leg.
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Ipswich brought in James Krause to start at left back while Michael Synnott moved to right back with Sammy Moore playing on the right wing in a five-man midfield.
England under-17 international Darryl Knights played as Town's lone striker and worked tirelessly for his team.
The Saints started well and only an excellent block from Chris Casement to deny Leon Best stopped the home side from taking the lead within the first five minutes.
Town had chances of their own and captain Liam Craig fired wide from 25 yards on two occasions and Moore put a header past the post after a good cross from Knights.
Southampton could have gone in front when Theo Walcott had a great opportunity but Ipswich goalkeeper Shane Supple showed why he is regarded so highly by the Town coaching staff with an excellent one-handed save.
However, Supple was beaten in first-half injury time.
David McGoldrick, who had scored the decisive penalty in Southampton's semi-final shoot-out win over Wolves, again scored from 12 yards after Aidan Collins had brought down Walcott in the area.
It was cruel on Ipswich who had not deserved to go in at half-time behind but they soon equalised at the start of the second period.
Knights played a pass to Cathal Lordan who drilled the ball into the top corner from 30 yards with a fantastic strike.
Just before the hour the same two players combined as Lordan hit another long-range effort, this time into the bottom of the net, to give Ipswich a 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately for Town, their advantage only lasted three minutes before Best followed up to score after Supple had denied Walcott.
Both sides had further chances but a draw was the right result and leaves the final still in the balance.
The encounter, which had been watched by nearly 10,000 people in the St Mary's Stadium and screened live on Sky Sports, was a fantastic advert for under-18s football.
Knights was substituted with five minutes to go and received a standing ovation from the crowd for his hard-working performance.
Southampton's head of youth football Steve Wigley, was among those impressed with Knights' effort.
Wigley, who was in charge of The Saints' first team earlier this season, said: “Their little boy up front is not the biggest and he must be an inch shorter now because he worked so hard.
“He worked the line and is a credit to himself and the club because he was up there on his own.
“Ipswich came and passed the ball, were not negative and showed they have got good quality.
“They have got some good players, but we knew that. You do not get to the final of this competition if you don't.”
Southampton (4-4-2): McNeil; Wallis-Tayler, Rudd, Cranie, Richards, Dyer, James, Sparv, Walcott; Best (Condesso 83), McGoldrick. Subs not used: Bale, Jones, Dutton-Black, Lallana.
Ipswich Town (4-5-1): Supple; Krause, Casement, Collins, Synnott (Haynes 63); Craig, Trotter (Sheringham 90), Garvan, Lordan, Moore; Knights (Hammond 85). Subs not used: Reynolds, Ainsley.
Referee: Mr Andre Marriner (West Midlands)