Harvey Godsmark-Ford

FA Youth Cup Progression For Young Foxes At Villa

Leicester City’s Under-18s knocked holders Aston Villa out of the FA Youth Cup with a 2-0 victory in the third round at Villa Park on Tuesday evening.

There were four changes made to the Leicester side that defeated Nottingham Forest 4-1 in the U18 Premier League Cup last weekend, including goalkeeper Arlo Doherty replacing Kelechi Chibueze between the sticks.

Ben Nelson, Will Alves and Sammy Braybrooke were also introduced into the XI having primarily represented the Under-23s this season, with Braybrooke named as captain.

Adopting a 3-4-1-2 formation, top scorers Kian Pennant and Chris Popov led the line for City, with Alves dropping in the no.10 role. And it was Alves who created the game’s first opportunity as he drove forward with the ball and curled a left-footed effort wide of the target.

Another strong run from Alves saw him create space for a shot, but this time Josh Feeney managed to get a block in and divert the ball behind. Ben Grist met the resulting Braybrooke corner and Villa ‘keeper Oliwer Zych was able to claim.

Doherty was soon called into action for the first time on 20 minutes, tipping Dewain Sewell’s strike over the bar after the forward took aim from a tight angle. Another chance fell to Sewell from Lamare Bogarde’s cross, but he was unable to test Doherty again, flicking the ball past the far post.

Braybrooke came even closer to breaking the deadlock when his free-kick from 25 yards out looked to be perfectly placed to nestle into the top corner until Zych managed to dive across and tip it over.

Grist then showed his aerial threat again, meeting Braybrooke’s corner with a header that was comfortable for Zych to deal with. The away side kept pressing for an opener and, after Jahmari Lindsay played the ball into Alves, his quick turn and shot had to be dealt with by the increasingly busy Villa ‘keeper.

Villa were also dangerous in attack, though, and when Taylor-Jay Hart won possession high up the pitch, it presented an opportunity for Chisom Afoka, with Doherty able to hold on to his looping effort.

Both sides showed their intent from the start of the second half. Firstly, Villa’s Ben Chrisene evaded several challenges before striking low and hard, forcing Doherty into a diving stop.

Lindsay then exchanged a one-two with Pennant, taking the ball in his stride but firing it over the crossbar. And from that point, Leicester enjoyed the majority of the possession, but just could not find the opening.

The breakthrough finally arrived just before the hour-mark, courtesy of Pennant’s clinical close-range finish, slotting the ball beyond Zych after sprinting into the penalty area.

It was be the forward’s last involvement, however, as injury forced him off with 20 minutes remaining, being replaced by Jack Butterfill.

Time was running out for the hosts to find an equaliser and substitute Ajani Burchall sensed the urgency, striking from range, though Harvey Godsmark-Ford was there to block. More defensive work was required to stop Sil Swinkels’ header from Kahrel Reddin’s corner.

More spaces were starting to open up down the other end of the pitch as Popov cut inside onto his left twice in quick succession and tested Zych, who had to push his first effort over the top before more comfortably claiming the second.

Naturally, the home side pushed late on and, after Chrisene was off target, Tommi O’Reilly struck the side netting and then wriggled his way into a shooting position, narrowly missing the target.

Once Ruben Shakpole’s header landed onto the roof of the net, the hosts knew they had to throw everything at Leicester and, from a corner, the away side broke away with Braybrooke leading the charge, picking out Popov, who sent the ball into an empty net and sealed a memorable cup success.

Major moment

In a tight encounter, the first goal was always likely to be crucial and once Leicester found it via Kian Pennant’s eighth goal of the season in all competitions, they were able to see the game out, adding a second to claim victory in Birmingham.

Who impressed?

Will Alves stood out as City’s brightest spark throughout the game, picking up pockets of space and carrying the ball forward with intent. His close control and dribbling skills caused no end of problems for Villa’s defence, and he was the key link between Leicester’s midfield and attack.

Where do we stand?

Leicester’s youngsters will now face Crewe Alexandra at home in the fourth round of the competition. The tie must be played by Saturday 15 January, 2022.

Coming up...

City’s Under-18s’ next fixture is back in U18 Premier League South as the Foxes travel to face Tottenham Hotspur Under-18s at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre (11:30am GMT kick-off).

The details…

City: Doherty; Grist, Godsmark-Ford, B. Nelson; Wormleighton, Braybrooke, Cartwright, Lindsay, Alves (Cover 90’); Popov, K. Pennant (Butterfill 71).

Subs not used: Chibueze, Cook, Kutshienza, Dawkins, Lewis.

Goals: K. Pennant 59’, Popov 90+4’.

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