Hritika Sharma is a member of the FA’s Young Reporters’ Club and currently studies Football Journalism at the University of Derby.
On a very cold evening at Pride Park Stadium, Derby County supporters made their way to the stands to cheer on their U18 team against Manchester City under the lights in the FA Youth Cup.
After the teams drew 2-2 in the Premier League North this season, with Derby currently sitting 14 points ahead of City and with Justin Walker’s side having won their nine games in a row across all competition, confidence in the home ranks was high.
- The FA Youth Cup
- Fifth Round Proper
- Thursday 31 January 2019
- Pride Park Stadium, Derby
It was City, however, who started better and caused their hosts plenty of problems with probing attacks and a possession-based style of play with Rams goalkeeper Sam French having to be alert to save a fierce early shot from Dutch winger Jayden Braaf.
But after taking their time to settle in, Derby grew into the game and enjoyed a good spell of pressure, looking to break the deadlock.
Louie Sibley opened up the City defence on more than one occasion, while Jason Knight and Tyree Wilson – all scorers in their fourth round win over Sheffield United – drew saves from Louie Moulden.
As half time approached City still looked dangerous on the break, but would concede advantage after captain Eric Garcia’s mistimed tackle on Sibley resulted in a penalty. Wilson, as he had done in the previous round, confidently scored from the spot.
And ten minutes into the second half, Gareth Taylor’s side were reduced to ten men after Felix Nmecha was shown a straight red card for dissent.
The young midfielder believed he was fouled by Knight, and took exception when referee Aaron Jackson did not award a foul.
While it may have seemed that Derby’s cause had been helped, City turned the tie in their favour by responding with two goals in as many minutes.
The equaliser came from a Thomas Doyle’s corner, which was headed in powerfully by Taylor Harwood-Bellis, giving French no chance.
And immediately after that Jeremie Frimpong broke away from the Rams’ defence, sprinted down the right flank and into the box before firing a wonderful shot into the far corner.
Derby tried everything to make their numerical advantage count, but the visitors held on to their slender lead.
With tensions running high, there was time for some late drama as Eiran Cashin was sent off during a scrap and Knight followed him after a second yellow card.
City soon secured their progress to the next round, and Derby’s nine-game winning streak came to an end as they bowed out of the competition, their FA Youth Cup dream over for another year.