UTTOXETER Town Youth suffered penalty shoot-out heartache for the second time in two days against ASC Tigers in the final of the Sentinel under-16 Shield at Vale Park on Tuesday evening.
Town Youth had suffered the same fate in the League Cup final against Alex Soccer Centre – another Crewe outfit – to compund their misery.
Uttoxeter manager Geoff Dyche was gracious in defeat and praised the stamina of his players after seeing them suffer cup final despair twice over.
“We played 120 minutes in a cup final on Sunday and lost, now a further 110 minutes and a penalty shoot-out, so the lads are absolutely gutted,” he said.
“At half-time I filled them with fig rolls and fruit pastilles to try and keep them going and I’m so proud of their efforts.”
There were certainly no recriminations for Louis Sherwin – only encouraging pats on the back – after the youngster missed the fatal penalty at 6-6 in the shoot-out to leave Tigers hero Kieran Knapper netting a few seconds later to win the final and leave himself mobbed by delirious team-mates.
Normal time had earlier seen Uttoxeter open the scoring through Shay Finney’s neat finish on 20 minutes.
Ollie Ritchie claimed the assist with a well-weighted pass.
Buy the sun then appeared to blind Uttoxeter’s keeper and his defenders – leaving Jordan Bennion touching home a far-post cross three minutes later.
Uttoxeter, visibly miffed at losing their lead so early, restored their lead five minutes later with one of the shots of the season.
Joel Dyche was some 30 yards from goal when, having spotted keeper James Warburton slightly off his line out of the corner of his eye, he let fly with a precise shot that was destined for the back of the net from the moment it left his boot.
And it would have been 3-1 had the Tigers keeper not dropped smartly to prevent Jacob Lovatt stroking home Ritchie’s tidy pass.
Tigers levelled just before the hour, however, when the ever-threatening Bennion centred deep for Daniel Barber to net with a cool finish.
Ritchie very nearly stole it when hitting a post in the 90th minute, but it was on to 20 minutes of extra-time and then penalties.
The only criticism was the decision to play 90 minutes of normal time instead of 80 to leave several youngsters going to ground with cramp on Vale Park’s vast expanses.
Even with rolling substitutes, it was almost a case of last boy standing.
Extra-time failed to provide further goals. And both sides buried their first six penalties before a spot-kick was finally missed to leave the Tigers being crowned winners.
“It was a long night, but I feel absolutely out of this world,” said Tigers manager Faruq Virani. “I was so proud that they kept their nerve in the game and the penalty shoot-out.
“My heart was racing, I’ve never felt like that before. I thought it was a terrific end-to-end game and I feel our boys put in the performance of their life because they were playing against a team full of ex-Academy players.
“We let them have the ball to see what they could do for the first 20 minutes or so and our lads had the mentality to take our instructions on board and not play the occasion.”
Town Youth’s League Cup defeat was equally as dramatic. They got off to a great start.
Josh Bowden and George Warburton set the tempo with some slick passing, while Lovatt and Ritchie refused to let the Crewe defence settle.
Finney and Luke Lewis teased and tormented the Crewe full backs as Uttoxeter flashed a couple of shots past the post.
Uttoxeter who took a deserved lead when Tom Morgan was fouled 35 yards out and Bowden flighted an exquisite ball which caught the keeper in two minds, and swung into the corner of the Crewe net.
The young Town side increased their lead when a free-kick was headed past the stranded Crewe keeper.
As half-time approached, Crewe got a lifeline when a cross from the left ran through and was stabbed home, giving keeper Stevie O’Sullivan no chance.
The second half started with Uttoxeter again on the front foot. In the opening 10 minutes a run down the left by Lewis saw him feed Lovatt.
His snapshot was parried out by the Crewe keeper, but Ryan Nesbitt was there to poke the ball home for a 3-1 lead.
Crewe then adopted a far more direct and urgent style of play, bypassing midfield.
Nothing was getting past Ross Bould and Cal Lovatt, but when a ball broke on the edge of the Town 18-yard box, a Crewe player rifled an unstoppable shot into the net.
Four minutes fro time a ball was sent into the Town box before the referee blow his whistle to award Crewe a dubious penalty – much to the bemusement of players and spectators alike. The Crewe striker dispatched it clinically to take the game into extra time.
The first half of extra-time saw few chances before a moment of brilliance from Finney saw Uttoxeter go 4-3 ahead.
Finney broke free and smashed the ball home off the underside of the crossbar.
The Crewe keeper brilliantly denied Jake Lovatt in the second period of extra-time, before a great save from O’Sullivan maintained Town’s advantage.
With 50 seconds left a long ball out to the Crewe left saw the Alex winger smash the ball home – to the despair of the young town side.
The lottery of penalties loomed, and despite some valiant attempts from O’Sullivan, the Crewe outfit scored all four of their penalties – with Uttoxeter missing twice.