Cardiff City's Academy will have the opportunity of securing a ninth FAW Youth Cup title after they overcame ten-man Newport County 5-3 in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
Before kick-off the two teams held a minute’s silence in tribute to the lives of Corey Price, Rhodri Miller, Alesha O’Connor and Margaret Challis. The City players paid a further tribute to friend Corey with each player wearing a black armband during this cup tie.
Eli Phipps had a golden opportunity to open the scoring within the first minute after he rounded ‘keeper Jake Keating but couldn’t beat Regan Pool on the goal line. The move came following a swift counter-attack from a County free-kick. Things settled down after the early chance and the Bluebirds enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. They almost made it count too after nine minutes but centre-half Sam Williams couldn’t get the right connection on a Jamie Veale corner.
Despite their domination in the possession statistics, City had to rely on stopper Joe Massaro to save a one-on-one from Aaron Collins after he was put through four minutes later.
In the 35th minute, City were made to rue their early missed chance when referee T. Cook awarded the Exiles a penalty when Ben Brookes went down under the challenge of Rollin Menayese. Aaron Collins got the better of Massaro this time around to put his side one-nil up. With the last chance of the first-half Cardiff had another effort cleared of the line, this time from Ashley Baker’s hooked shot.
During the break Jamie Bird replaced the injured Eli Phipps, and Elvis Menayese went up top with Bird filling in out on the left. The young Bluebirds got a deserved equaliser on 52 minutes when Jake Watkins’ curling strike found the bottom right-hand corner after good build up play from Baker and Elvis Menayese.
City almost netted a second goal five minutes later but Ashley Baker’s cut back from the by-line was deflected into the grateful arms of County ‘keeper Keating. Penalty box decisions seemed to become a theme in this match, and the Bluebirds would have felt incredibly hard done by not to receive a spot kick on 65 minutes when Parselle felled fellow defender Baker in the penalty area.
The game then sprung into life when Nyall Gray found himself with just Massaro to beat but the City custodian stayed firm to deny him superbly with only nine minutes remaining. With the game nearing extra-time both teams had real opportunities. Jamie Bird went close but his whipped shot raced just past the upright, whilst Kieren Parselle hit the crossbar after City failed to clear a County free-kick.
In added time Cardiff had a chance to win it but Will Taylor drove his shot straight at Keating after persistent play from Elvis Menayese. With the two teams level the game headed into extra-time with the possibility of penalties if required, with the referees decision not to reward a penalty on 65 minutes playing it’s part in the draw.
Substitute Jarrad Welch could only fire over from 20 yards when presented with a good chance to put his side ahead. At the other end, Massaro again had to stand tall to keep his side in the tie as he palmed away Owen-Evans’ volley. On the stroke of half-time in extra-time Jake Watkins’ strike from the edge of the area flew just wide.
Straight after the restart Jamie Bird’s powerful drive was saved on the underarm of Keating and deflected onto the crossbar, an incredible effort from the lively winger. Also in the second-half the referee made the big decision to send off Spencer Wood for two bookable offences, the second of which for simulation. Massaro was on hand to save from Gray once again as the Exiles looked to upset the odds. This meant the game entered the tension of a penalty shootout.
Having beaten TNS in a penalty shootout in the last round, Matthew Bloxham and Jarred Harvey’s side knew they would have to repeat the trick to get past the Exiles.
Captain Jamie Veale stepped up first firing down the middle and this set the tone with substitutes Jamie Bird, Will Taylor and Jarrad Welch all scoring in the left-hand corner for City and Owen-Evans, Parselle and Collins for County also scoring to the left of the goal, until Ben Brooks made the costly error as his penalty miss gave goal-scorer on the night Jake Watkins the chance to set up a final with either Swansea City or Bala Town. The City number 11 kept his cool to hit the back of the net for a second time on the evening, sealing their final spot on an emotional evening in Barry.
FINAL SCORE: NEWPORT COUNTY 1-1 CARDIFF CITY AET (Collins, 35 (pen); Watkins, 52)
Cardiff City win 5-3 on pens.
Newport County: Keating, O’Kelly, Parselle, Owen-Evans, Poole ©, James (Zanotti, 77), Bamford (Wood, 70), Sheppard (Evans, 105), Gray, Collins, Brooks. Subs Not Used: Tollard, Matondo
Cardiff City: Massaro, Baker, Abbruzzese, Rees (Taylor, 69), R. Menayese, Willams, E. Menayese, Humphries (Welch, 84), Phipps (Bird, 45), Veale ©, Watkins. Subs Not Used: Coxe, Wakeman,
Referee: T. Cook