Angels Academy through to 3rd Qualifying Rd of FA Youth Cup
Tonbridge Angels came from behind at the Halcyon Wealth Longmead Stadium to seal a place in the final qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup where they will visit Dartford, thus setting up an intriguing battle of minds between Tommy Parkinson and Ben Greenhalgh!
After being on the back foot for the first half, the Angels youngsters came out positively in the second half and one of the half-time substitutions, 15-year-old Fin Hartley, scored the winner with nine minutes remaining.
Whyteleafe, a physically strong and talented side, dominated the first period and would have gone into the break more than a goal to the good had it not been for solid central defensive partnership of Alfie Leach and Joe Tyrie, who were immense throughout. When the visitors found a way through, goalkeeper Charlie Martin came to the rescue with a couple of fine saves.
Tonbridge struggled to make any impression in the opening period and when Whyteleafe went in front after 29 minutes it was no more than the visitors deserved. A ball down the left flank sent the Whyteleafe full back in behind the Angels defence and his cross was met by Atta Gyan who gave Martin no chance.
The Angels only real opportunity of the opening 45 minutes came just prior to the break when Louis Copeland’s cross was headed narrowly wide by Cameron Wootton.
Parkinson made two half-time changes, Toby Henley came on for Josh Ferguson and Hartley replaced Copeland. Henley did well to stifle a winger that had caused first half problems and the Tonbridge defence looked more assured giving midfielders Ben Twist and Luca Woodhouse the opportunity to become more creative.
Hartley had a couple of chances within the space of a minute from the 50th minute but neither shot carried enough power to worry the visiting goalkeeper.
But, after 59 minutes, Woodhouse got free on the left hand side and his cross-cum-shot to the far post found itself nestling in the far corner of the net to the delight of his fellow Academy students who were congregated behind the goal creating a great atmosphere with the beating of the drum.
Whyteleafe rallied from the setback and Martin was called into action making good saves on two occasions to deny the visiting centre forward.
Hartley’s moment of magic arrived on 81 minutes when a long punt forward from Martin was won in the air and nodded on by Wootton into the path of the 15-year-old who deftly chipped his shot over the advancing goalkeeper for a brilliantly composed finish.
The Angels had to survive eight torturous minutes of added time, which in fairness was probably correct as there had been numerous stoppages, before the referee finally brought down the curtain on this highly entertaining encounter that had been watched by a healthy attendance of 234 supporters, starved of football at Longmead.