08:56 Friday 20 December 2013

SLIDESHOW: Uttoxeter Town Youth secure semi-final berth

Written byFOOTBALL REPORTER

JAKE Lovatt and Ollie Ritchie struck in extra-time to fire Uttoxeter Town Youth through to the semi-final of the League Cup.

The 4-2 victory also avenged Town’s recent defeat against the league leaders – who had boasted a 100 per cent record in all competitions prior to Sunday.

With several of the Uttoxeter lads returning from injury, the Town looked to be in much better shape and a better frame of mind than for the 5-0 league reverse.

The hosts set out to dictate the pace of the game from the first whistle.

And Town Youth’s movement and passing from the midfield quartet of Josh Bowden, Ritchie, Luke Lewis and Sherwin was impressive.

The defence were also backed up by the solid back four of George Warburton, Lovatt, Price and the returning Jack Flowers.

Despite their physical disadvantage, it was Uttoxeter who took the lead when Lovatt found space to thread a ball through to the mercurial Shay Finney.

His first touch left a defender for dead, and Finney then drove into the box before picking out Lewis to slot home.

Audley responded in determined fashion in a bid to put pressure on the Uttoxeter back four.

But the visitors’ long-ball tactics were easily dealt with by Lovatt and Price.

An equaliser did arrive from a set piece. Town’s keeper found himself under pressure from the Audley centre forward, which somehow resulted in a cross dropping into the Uttoxeter net.

With parity restored the league leaders then enjoyed their best spell of the game – pumping the ball into the box to make their physical advantage tell.

And when a partially corner was cleared it dropped for Olly Jepson – son of Bury manager Ronnie – who drove through a sea of players to give Audley a 2-1 half-time lead.

Uttoxeter came out in determined fashion after the break.

Ritchie made some driving runs through the middle of the park to set up chances for Dawson and Lovatt.

Finney worked tirelessly to link play up – and got his just reward after being dragged down in the penalty area while trying to get on the end of a rapier-like pass from Price.

Finney picked himself up and made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-2.

Both sides then threw caution to the wind and in the last 15 minutes the game opened up.

Fine saves by the Audley keeper were matched by Uttoxeter number one Stevie O’Sullivan, and no more goals were added before full time.

Tom Morgan was moved to right-back in extra-time, allowing Warburton to join Bowden in midfield.

And the switches appeared to transform the Uttoxeter side – allowing Ritchie to play higher up the pitch.

From a neatly worked attack the ball fell for the prolific Lovatt to prod home, making it 3-2.

In what was turning into a great advert for youth football, with both teams going all out for the next goal.

But as the game became increasingly open, it always looked as if the precise passing game of Uttoxeter would win the day.

And when Morgan and Warburton combined to feed Ritchie, who rifled the ball into the corner of the Audley net, the game was up for the league leaders.

On Sunday, Town Youth entertain Stafford Rangers at Oldfields, kick-off 2pm.

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