Heartbreak for the young Reds as Leicester seal victory at the death.
An 88th minute strike courtesy of Jack Butterfill saw the Alex’s FA Youth Cup journey come to an end in a 1-0 defeat to Leicester City amid extremely foggy conditions.
With the absence of Connor O’Riordan, Lee Bell lined up with left back Sean Lawton at centre half and 16-year-old Lucas Sant named as first choice left back for the evening, whilst the substitute bench was too primarily made up of 16-year-olds.
The young Railwaymen began the game on the front foot with Joel Tabiner’s 20-yard free kick crashing off the crossbar inside the opening three minutes. Leicester goalkeeper, Kelechi Chibueze was unmoved.
From then on, neither goalkeeper was tested as both sides enjoyed an even share of possession with neither wanting to give anything away. The only action saw Foxes central defender, Harvey Godsmark-Ford cautioned for a clumsy foul on Connor Salisbury.
The central defender was then involved again on 34 minutes as he registered his sides first effort on target. An in-swinging corner saw him climb highest to head into the arms of Tom Booth, before Chris Popov also had an effort saved by the Alex number one.
The final action saw Brandon Cover fashion two chances of his own, the latter close to troubling Booth - but ultimately, he was able to watch it curl narrowly wide of the goal.
As expected, the hosts came out fighting and instantly put the Alex rear-guard under pressure winning a succession of corners. Before Booth was called upon once again but stood strong to keep the scores level.
With the young reds surviving this period of pressure, possession quickly changed as Salisbury once again caused trouble for the Leicester rear-guard. The Welshman’s pace meant that Cartwright was the next addition into the referee’s notebook as he was cautioned for a cynical foul. The resultant free kick caused panic around the box but despite penalty appeals for handball the referee was unmoved.
With 20 minutes left to play and the Alex continuing to look for the advantage they very nearly took the lead. A moment of panic for the hosts saw an in-swinging corner skid off the back of a Ben Nelson’s head and clip the crossbar.
On 72 minutes, Max Woodcock looked to have a strong appeal for a penalty after his pressure caused Sammy Braybrooke into an unforced error which led to the captain appearing to pull the Alex winger down in the area. All eye’s looked to the referee but he waved away any appeals. Perhaps the foggy conditions played a part in the decision making?
The second half was seemingly split into three thirds of 15-minute spells as it was the Midlander’s who enjoyed the final proceedings.
Joe Wormleighton set the tone for the final 10 minutes, curling a strike towards the far corner, only to see Booth’s parry just evade the onrushing City attacker.
The urgency was building for the home side as Will Alves weaved his way through the Alex defence and again called Booth into action at his near post, which he palmed onto the upright. With Popov quickest to react to the rebound, his header looked to be heading over the line but for a superb reaction save to claw it away to safety.
If the young Reds were going to have any chance of progressing to the next round, they would have Booth to thank, as the man between the sticks continued to aggravate the hosts.
In the final knockings, the Foxes finally broke the Alex’s resistance thanks to Butterfill’s finish right at the death, with the forward in the right place to slot the ball home after Wormleighton was unfortunate to see his effort come back off the woodwork.
Starting XI: Booth, Bhatti, Sant, Crolla, Kempster-Down, Lawton, Woodcock, Tabiner, Salisbury, Finney ©, Holicek
Subs: Higgins, Wood, Kassanda, Flint, Robinson, Nolan, Senior