Fylde Under-18s exit FA Youth Cup with heads held high after record-breaking run ends at Chelsea
The Coasters’ historic FA Youth Cup run is over, as Conrad Prendergast’s side were narrowly defeated by Chelsea at Kingsmeadow.
A resilient AFC Fylde outfit frustrated the hosts for the opening 45 minutes of this fourth-round tie as keeper Aaron Lancaster made a series of spectacular stops.
Fylde’s defence was eventually undone, though, as two powerful second-half finishes from Bryan Fiabema and Ben Elliott sealed the Blues’ progress to face Everton or Manchester City.
Prendergast made three changes to the side that ran out 3-2 winners at Cambridge United in the previous round, this time opting for a deep 5-3-2 formation in the hope of diminishing the Blues threat.
Moments before kick off, there was a touching tribute for Luke Bennett as a framed Chelsea shirt sporting ‘Bennett 11’ on the back was given to Fylde’s Academy Manager Chris Ganner.
The game began with the hosts on the front foot. Fylde, organised and diligent, made their gameplan known early doors, dropping into a deep low block, successfully limiting the Blues to minimal openings.
Lancaster made the first of several important saves on nine minutes, getting down well to a low drive by Fiabema.
The stopper was called into an action again just two minute later, emphatically beating away a Livramento volley before Peart-Harris headed the rebound wide.
Chelsea were gifted a glorious chance to break the deadlock on 23 minutes, Jones colliding with Lancaster, but Fiabema failed to hit the target when it looked harder to miss.
The visitors continued to soak up waves of Chelsea pressure but the hosts, who had beaten Barnsley 8-1 in the third round, were misfiring.
That was until Bashir Humphreys found space at the back post, powering a header that looked destined for the net until Lancaster pulled off a superb save to ensure the half ended goalless.
“More of the same” were the instructions given by Prendergast but the game plan went out the window just two minutes into the second half.
Fiabema finally got a goal to show for his endeavour. An inviting Vale cross found the tall striker inside the area and he nodded past Lancaster.
Fylde’s number one pulled off another wonderful save with 55 minutes on the clock, diverting Bate’s long-range drive over his crossbar.
Chelsea wer given the perfect chance to extend their advantage, when Fylde defender Jones brought down Peart-Harris inside the box.
However, skipper Bate dragged his penalty wide of the target, letting Fylde off the hook.
That relief lasted just eight minutes, though, as Ben Elliott produced a moment of magic, firing in at the near post after picking up Vale’s clever pass.
Both teams made several changes as the game neared an end, Fylde throwing on some attacking players in their final push for a goal.
That moment almost arrived in the final minute of added time, Adegoke misjudging a looping cross under pressure from Walder, but the ball hit the wrong side of the post and bounced to safety despite claims of it crossing the line.
Disappointed faces upon the full-time whistle reflected the belief that Fylde had throughout this game.
They had defied the odds to reach the fourth round of the most prestigious youth competition in the country. The magical run is officially over, but the memories will remain.
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