AFC Liverpool Under-18s continue FA Youth Cup adventure
AFC Liverpool Under-18s booked their place in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Youth Cup with a dramatic penalty shootout win over Runcorn Linnets.
The Merseyside youngsters snatched a deserved victory at Runcorn’s Millbank Stadium after a rollercoaster game that saw them twice fight back from a one-goal deficit.
Wednesday night’s win means the Non-League Reds are now just two games away from the First Round Proper for the first time in the club’s history.
AFC Liverpool Under-18s are part of the 7 Elite Academy Player Pathway that includes playing and study opportunities for young people from Under-11 to senior level across the world.
Manager Scott Seddon was delighted with his side’s character during a physical encounter in front of hundreds of fans.
He said: “Hand on heart, tonight’s game was the best I’ve ever seen the lads play. They were magnificent from the first whistle to the final penalty.
“The way they fought back from the first Runcorn goal, when we had a player lying badly injured on the pitch, shows the incredible spirit in this squad.
“They could have let their heads drop at that point, but they didn’t. Every single player on the pitch and on the bench pulled together and willed them to win.
“We also had some fans travel over from Liverpool and give us a lot of noisy support, which was great to see and hear. Their positive effect on the lads cannot be underestimated.”
AFC Liverpool had the better of the early exchanges and were unlucky not to open the scoring with a free kick that sailed over the bar on 29 minutes.
They went a goal down just a minute later, however, when midfielder Lewis Kristiansen was left injured by a hefty challenge and Runcorn broke to score.
But Jack Pearce was the hero just before half time when he struck from the top of the penalty area – following fine build-up play from Johnny Bravo – to even up proceedings.
Runcorn regained their advantage after 12 minutes of the second half, although Pearce was again the scorer on 82 minutes – this time assisted by Declan Smith – as the game ended in breathless fashion.
AFC Liverpool found themselves 3-2 ahead with moments left on the clock, thanks to Finlay Heath’s penalty, before the hosts equalised just seconds later.
The resulting penalty shootout saw both teams tied at 3-3 after five spot kicks, before Harvey Johnson stepped up to seal victory with a coolly taken shot into the top corner.
Seddon added: “Too often goalkeepers are forgotten about, but not here. Hugely instrumental in our FA Youth cup victory last night and season so far was our Cat Josh Collins. He did everything asked of him..
“In true cup fashion tonight was very physical and in addition to Lewis, Man of the Match Dylan Seddon was carried off with an ankle injury on 83 minutes. We wish them both a speedy recovery.
“But all credit Runcorn, as they put up an incredibly strong fight. These are the sort of games that really show a player’s character and the lads all impressed me.
]“It felt like Istanbul in 2005 and I told the boys to keep that feeling and carry it on into the rest of the season.
“Now we must turn out attention to the league, which is our bread and butter, but I am so proud of my players and how they conducted themselves.
“I can’t wait for the draw and I know the lads will be ready for another tough game in the next round, whoever we play at the end of this month.”