A memorable season got even better for Cambridge United Academy this evening, as a group of their Under-18s successfully defended the Cambridgeshire Invitational Cup with a 6-5 penalty shootout victory over Cambridge City at the Abbey Stadium.
It looked like United were on their way to winning the final in regulation time when they took a 2-1 lead in four extra minutes at the end of the second half, but out-of-league City scored the equalizer at 2-2 and powered through. Confrontation in penalty kicks.
Six of the players who came close to beating Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup last month have been named in the starting line-up, but have looked a bit temporary in the opening exchanges.
United could have fallen behind within 40 seconds when goalkeeper Louis Chadwick pulled a goal kick straight at City midfielder Simon Swinton just inside the halfway circle. A first-time pass made Jared Robson clear, but with Chadwick speculating over whether or not to lock the striker in, he lifted his effort just wide of goal.
However, City, who have won the competition on a record 15 occasions, did not have to wait long to break the deadlock. In the third minute United’s steady defense left room for Mickey Davis to drive inside, and he duly obliged with a low 10-yard finish that left Chadwick no chance.
Brandon Njoku, who scored the winning goal for Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup against Sheffield Wednesday, had slotted the ball into the net in the ninth minute, denying it offside. Otherwise, Jimmy Unwin’s youth struggled to make an impact on proceedings for the first 20 minutes.
But they kept up the game and slowly but surely United started to play more in the City half, with Dan Barton and Kay Earn influential figures.
It was Barton’s cross from the right that Njoku volleyed straight at Joe Welsh on 25 minutes and then five minutes later the striker sprinted wide of Taylor Barr to catch Yern’s pass at the base of the slide, but his shot was shot wide.
It was now City who were struggling to make a big impact attackingly, although they came close in the 37th minute when Jake Battersby crossed in from the left for fellow defender Ben Nolan, who rose well but was unable to continue. his head down.
However, just when it looked like Robbie Nightingale’s men would make it to half-time with a good goal, they were brought back in the 44th minute. A spirited Barton traded passes with George Scales on the edge of the box and then headed towards the right sideline before crossing to Slim Akanby for a home sweep.
Seemingly buoyed by the equaliser, United were in form early in the second half and in the 48th minute they took the lead. Njoku turned down two good chances in the first half but made amends by curling into the penalty area and then producing a shot that could only be helped by Welsh.
The striker could have doubled his tally for the evening five minutes later when he was left unmarked to face a right-side free-kick from Jern, but his head-down bounced high and crashed onto the roof of the net.
Njoku quickly became the main feature in the game and had another opening just past the hour mark after being picked off by Cut Barton. There was a lot of power in the shot, but Welch was right behind it and stopped.
Attempting to gain a foothold for his side in the proceedings, City boss Nightingale moved Nolan into a more natural attacking role on the right flank and he almost made money in the 67th minute when he mounted several challenges and picked off Robson inside the penalty area. , only for his shot lacking the power to upset Chadwick.
Chances dried up at both ends for a while after that, though that changed in the 83rd minute when Yern and Barton played one-two on the edge of the City box, but the latter’s low shot was saved by Welch’s foot.
Yern then missed the chance to put the game safe for United with three minutes remaining as he controlled substitute Amaro Kaunda’s cross and then fired it over.
And they proved they had made a costly mistake because in the second minute of stoppage time a high ball in the penalty area caused a panic and when brought down substitute Tom Lauren of City he smashed the ball under Chadwick.
The encounter sent to penalties, with both goalkeepers making saves twice each before Tom Rigby hit City’s eighth kick against the bar. Kaunda was left with a chance to end the silver medal for Manchester United and he bound with a shot that sent Welch the wrong way.
Cambridge United: Lewis Chadwick, Skiles, Winterbon, Jobe, Lott, Tarpey, Hoddle (Liam Chadwick 80′), Akanbe (Ismaily 46′), Yern, Barton, Njoku (Kunda 80′)
Cambridge City: Welch, Nolan, Battersby, Ofusu, Parr, Maynard (Rigby 80′), Swinton, Bradley, Robson, Davis, Wamsley (Lauren 55′)
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