Sonny Blu Lo-Everton inspired his side to FA Youth Cup victory, as his stunning free-kick was enough for Watford to make it past Birmingham City and into the fourth round.
“There’s a real excitement about the Youth Cup, it’s an opportunity for young players to create some experiences that will last them a lifetime.”
The words of Watford’s head of academy, Darren Sarll, rang true.
- The FA Youth Cup
- Third round proper
- Thursday 13 December 2018
- Maurice Rebak Stadium, Wingate & Finchley FC
Excitement was in the near-freezing air as both teams made their maiden appearances in this season’s FA Youth Cup.
Two-time winners Watford started the strongest, with early shots from captain Ryan Cassidy and Lo-Everton both testing goalkeeper Zach Jeacock.
The Hornets controlled possession and looked the far more likely to take the lead but Birmingham remained solid and defended a barrage of corners well.
As the game eventually settled down and the sides exchanged time on the ball, last season’s semi-finalists Birmingham grew in confidence. Jude Bellingham forced a save from Dante Baptiste shortly before Kyle Hurst flashed his long-range effort over the bar.
Momentum returned to home side. Cassidy curled a shot around the post and just before the break, Lo-Everton drew a fantastic stretching block from Jeacock.
Winter felt truly upon us at the Maurice Rebak Stadium, home of Wingate & Finchley where club secretary Mark Felstein was thrilled at the prospect of hosting the tie.
“It’s fantastic for Wingate & Finchley that we get to host these games that showcase these youngsters in the FA Youth Cup,” he said.
Heading into the second period still goalless, the match restarted with a quicker tempo and the drama started to unfold. Hurst fell in the box after a challenge from hornets defender George Langston, but any shouts for a penalty were waved away by referee Hugh Gilroy.
At the other end, Cassidy’s low strike found the back of the net, but the goal was quickly chalked off for offside.
But the winning goal came in the 75th minute and it arrived in spectacular fashion. Lo-Everton struck his free-kick with power and precision from just outside the box. His right foot sent the ball around Birmingham’s wall and past Jeacock to give Watford the lead.
The Blues struggled to find a foothold back in the game and time slowly ticked away as they searched for an equaliser.
Deep into injury time, Tate Campbell bounded clear through into the box with possession. His lashing shot beat Baptiste but flew just the wrong side of the post. This would be Birmingham’s last chance as the match came to a conclusion.
Considering the lure of European football was a mere five miles away at the Emirates Stadium, this tie pulled an impressive attendance of 207, proving the magic of the cup is still alive, especially at youth level.
Watford will now host Southampton in the fourth round.