Lee Bell’s side book their place into the next round of the FA Youth Cup in an eight-goal thriller at the Mornflake Stadium.
The Under-18s secured a place in the third round of the FA Youth Cup with a 5-3 win over Harrogate Town, but it took 120 minutes of football to decide who would prevail.
Goals from Joel Tabiner and Connor O’Riordan in normal time looked to have settled the tie, but a Joe Dixon goal in either half meant the game headed for extra time.
In a manic opening 10 minutes of extra time, the Alex lead not once but twice with goals from Charlie Finney and Zak Kempster-Down before Connor Salisbury confirmed the win as he added a fifth with the final kick of the game.
The teams entered the Mornflake Stadium turf with their tails up as both sides created opportunities early on. On 10 minutes, Salisbury ran the length of the field before Owen Lunt found himself one-on-one with Harrogate stopper, Harvey Giles. But his cute little chip drifted a whisker wide of the far post.
Meanwhile, despite that early chance for Lee Bell’s side Harrogate responded well and took the lead on 13 minutes. Some lacklustre defending allowed Finn O’Boyle to run from his own half before he slipped through Dixon who coolly placed his effort into the bottom left corner. Moments before that, O’Boyle should have already opened the scoring as he blazed over the crossbar from 10-yards.
Though, the next 20 minutes were certainly a contrast to the opening stages as neither goalkeeper was called into action, despite the young Reds enjoying plenty of possession.
But it was the Alex’s continued pressure which finally took its toll on the visitors, as Joel Tabiner found the equaliser on 37 minutes. The youngster who made his first team debut in midweek pulled his side back on level terms with a well driven finish under the legs of Giles from the left side of the penalty area.
The final action of the first half saw Tabiner involved once again as he linked up with Finney, who managed to find a pocket of space to attempt an audacious effort at goal. Giles was beaten but it couldn’t quite drop below the crossbar as the scores remained level.
That first half momentum was soon carried into the second as O’Riordan pushed the Alex ahead just four minutes in. Leading from the front, the captain found room to latch onto Salisbury’s flick in behind the visitor’s defence to smash into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.
Except the Alex’s lead was only temporary as the Sulphurites pegged Lee Bell’s side back on the hour mark. A lack of concentration allowed the visitors to outnumber the Reds in attack before Dixon slotted into an empty net for his second of the afternoon.
Once again, the Railwaymen dominated possession as they looked to regain the lead, but nothing was really created to trouble the Harrogate defence.
Matus Holicek twisted and turned in the dying embers of the 90 minutes as he managed to manoeuvre his way through the defence before driving a cross across the six yard area, but nobody could pounce on the opportunity. All it needed was a touch.
With the scores level in an FA Youth Cup tie, it meant that both sides had to settle for extra time to see who could book their place into the hat for the next round.
Into extra time and much like the first 90 minutes, Lee Bell’s side looked to be the more favourable when looking for that next goal. Tabiner tried his look from range with a ferocious effort that stung the palms of Giles.
Finally, Finney came up with the goods to put the Alex ahead once again just six minutes into extra time. Regaining possession in the attacking third, he let fly from 25-yards to watch his effort drift into the top left-hand corner. Giles had no chance.
Crewe’s lead only stood for a matter of two minutes as the fresh legs of the extra time substitute Emmanuel Ilesamni played in the visitor’s favour. Picking up the ball on the right side of the box the attacker managed to squeeze his effort into the bottom right corner.
Meanwhile, the Reds maintained the belief to regain the lead for the third time of the afternoon just two minutes later. An in-swinging corner found the lurking Kempster-Down at the far post who’s first time finish struck the roof of the net.
The second half of extra time just needed the Alex to hold their nerve and play the game out and they did just that.
With a couple of minutes left to play, Finney thought he had secured himself a second goal of the afternoon but for a tremendous save from Giles whose heroics gave the visitors a glimmer of hope.
Holicek and Tabiner combined on the left side of the penalty area before the latter managed to cross to the onrushing Finney whose headed effort was stopped by the frame of Giles.
Lee Bell made two changes as the tiring Ty Webster and Charlie Finney made way for Sam Crolla and Marquise Martins.
The final action of the afternoon secured Lee Bell’s side a place in the third-round draw as Salisbury wrote his name onto the scoresheet. Despite playing all 120 minutes, Lunt found the energy to charge towards goal to pick out Salisbury who squeezed the ball over the line at his second attempt.
Crewe XI: Booth, Bhatti, Lawton, Tabiner, O’Riordan ©, Kempster-Down, Holicek, Lunt, Salisbury, Finney, Webster.
Subs used: Crolla, Martins.