Goals from Cooper and Brown see Crewe deservedly into round four of the FA Youth Cup
Crewe Alexandra’s Under-18s recorded a well-deserved 2-1 win over Kevin Keen’s Fulham side in the 3rd round of the FA Youth Cup. Coach Alex Morris and his assistant Kenny Lunt guided the Crewe youngsters to a fantastic win over last season’s beaten finals thanks to goals from George Coope and Andre Brown.
A late reply from Fulham’s Stephen Humprheys made it an edgy last few minutes after the fourth official had added four minutes of stoppage time, but overall Crewe Alexandra deserved to progress after conjuring up the better of the chances. It is fair to say the margin could and should have been more over the 90 minutes.
The Alex youngsters now await the fourth round draw after claiming a major scalp in the competition.
Cooper, who has been included at first team level this season, certainly rose to the occasion at Gresty Road and was a constant threat to the Fulham back-line. It is no exaggeration to suggest that Cooper could have left with the match ball.
A bright start from the Alex saw Cooper blocked by the towering defender Ejijah Abebayo and Brown soon showed his strength by couldn’t quite get his shot on target to test Magnus Norman for the first time on the night.
The breakthrough came after 23 minutes when Brown again showed his power and pace to force Norman into a save but there was the alert Cooper to guide home the rebound from close range.
Almost immediately, the tricky forward was unlucky to see a wonderful lob nestle on the roof of the Fulham net. It just needed to dip at the crucial moment.
Fulham had half chances of their own, with Mattias Kait firing over the top of Liam Matthews’ crossbar arguably their best chance. Crewe were dominant in possession and creating the better of the chances throughout the first period.
The excellent Joe Howell saw a deflected effort clear the crossbar before Cooper went close at a corner after Liam O’Neill’s longer delivery found him at the far post. His half volley was deflected behind for a corner.
With Crewe looking for a decisive second goal, Callum Ainley and Cooper again also had late shots deflected wide of the target.
Crewe may have had only the one goal to show for their efforts in the first half, but in the opening minute of the second half they doubled their advantage through a wonderful finish from Brown. He latched onto a through ball from Ainley and showed great strength again to hold off the intentions of Abebayo before firing past Norman on the run. It was a top class finish from the Crewe number 9.
Moments after making it 2-0, O’Neill nearly made it 3-0 when his shot was parried into the air and seemed to clip the woodwork on the way back down.
Cooper was booked after failing to retreat ten yards from a free-kick but it was a little harsh to say the least. Chris Speed was introduced for Ainley as Crewe continued to control the game. Speed’s first involvement saw him drill a shot just wide of the mark.
Fulham’s goalscorer Humprheys thumped a free-kick through the Alex wall that Matthews did well to get both hands behind to push it away from danger.
With Abebayo struggling with a bad case of cramp, the Alex went for the jugular with Cooper and O’Neill exchanging passes but Cooper lifted his lob just past the post. It would have been some goal on the counter attack. O'Neill also had a goalbound effort cleared from the line that looked awfully close to being over.
Matthews had to stay alert to push a decent strike from Josh Smile around his post but the Crewe keeper didn’t stand much of a chance when Humprhey took full advantage of some hesitation in the Crewe back-line to latch on to a punt up the pitch from Ryheem Sheckleford to touch it past the helpless Crewe goalkeeper for 2-1.
Crewe went close to adding to their tally though with O’Neill curling an effort around the post before Brown lifted a late shot over the bar when he should have grabbed his second goal of a glorious night for the Alex.
Crewe: Matthews, Kearns, Neal, Finney, Moran, Mullarkey, O'Neill, Howell, Brown, Cooper, Ainley
Subs: Kirk, Harrison, Speed, Morgan, Lowery.