AFC Fylde Under-18s head to Chelsea after emotional win in FA Youth Cup
AFC Fylde Under-18s are heading to Stamford Bridge after a dramatic 3-2 win away to Cambridge United on Wednesday earned them a trip to Chelsea in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.
Theo Ball scored the winner 30 seconds from full-time in a victory dedicated to the memory of team-mate Luke Bennett, the teenager from Chorley killed in a tragic accident this month.
The young Coasters had never reached this stage of the cup before and had not played a competitive game since defeating Sunderland in the previous round almost four months ago, yet Conrad Prendergast's side rose to the occasion in great style.
They fell behind after just eight minutes in a tie played at Newmarket Town FC but quickly composed themselves and took the lead with goals immediately before and after the half-time interval.
Owen Robinson converted a penalty won by Curtis Poole, then seconds after the restart Sam Gibbons fired into the top right corner.
Cambridge equalised on 52 minutes but Fylde, who also defeated Morecambe earlier in the competition, had the better of the second-half chances.
It looked like it wouldn't be their night, though, as Robinson had an effort cleared off the line and then saw a shot saved, Harvey Gregson volleying the rebound just over the top.
But with seconds remaining, Ball latched on to a ball over the top and rounded the keeper to send the Coasters into dreamland.
Fylde had T-shirts made with the message 'Lukey B 2003-21' emblazoned across the front and team boss Prendergast told the club website: "Luke was in our minds throughout the preparation this week. They are a very good group of lads and I'm really fortunate to work with them every day.
"There were a few tears. It meant a lot to Theo and he has certainly done Luke proud."
Of the game itself, Prendergast added: "I think I went through every emotion in that game.
"I thought it was going to be an uphill battle after going behind early on but I always had faith and confidence in the group. I always felt they could cause an upset.
"We never stop running and working across the group and we kept pushing for the winner. And with 30 seconds to go we've got a fantastic reward.
"Across the pitch they worked for each other. When the lads weren't allowed to train during lockdown we were on Zoom every day doing sessions and everything we could to keep the hunger and motivation.
"And since we've been back on the grass the preparation has been fantastic. They had to do the job on the night and everyone involved has done us proud.
"The lads are buzzing and it will be a massive highlight of their careers playing at a Premier League ground. The lads can't wait."
The tie at Stamford Bridge is to be played by April 3.
Fylde starting XI: Lancaster, Gibbons, Birch, Bridges, Walder, Jones, Poole, Gregson, Long, Orr, Robinson.
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