Stevenage U18s fell to a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat to lose against Aston Villa U18s in the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup...
After more than matching their Category 1 opponents over 120 minutes of action, the tie was decided from the spot where Villa prevailed with a 4-2 win.
Being played in wet and wild conditions, it was Villa and Aaron Ramsey who were first to make an impression on either goal, the Villa forward firing two shots over the bar inside the first 10 minutes to send a warning sign to the Boro boys.
Presley was next for Villa to have a chance at goal, but after being played in beautifully by his teammate, the big striker couldn’t find the angle from the near-post, and struck the side netting.
Stevenage’s chief threat up top, Liam Smyth had a huge claim for a penalty on 22 minutes as he went for a diving header to connect with Ari’s brilliant cross, only to be pushed away by an opposition defender in the nick of time.
That half-chance sparked a strong response from Stevenage, who hustled and harried Villa into a panic as Boro’s youngsters went on the attack. Pinning the opposition back around their own box, Stevenage created a number of good openings around the half hour mark with relentless pressing, sharp passing and slick movement off the ball.
With five minutes to go until the half, a deflected Jack Smith free-kick looped high into the air and at Villa goalkeeper Sinisalo, who lost control of his grip as Krasniqi bundled the ball home, only to see it chalked off for a foul on the Villa Captain.
The best chance of the half came soon after, as Moriarty swung the ball towards an unmarked Smyth at the back-post, who planted his header just wide of the goal to leave both sides goalless at the break.
Villa came out fast from the half and Berman had his first save to make after just a couple of minutes, as a blistering run from Wright allowed Pressley into position to shoot, only to be met by the firm hands of Stevenage’s stopper.
Boro soon got back to grips with the contest though and Fernandez had a header saved off the line, as he met a corner beautifully from the far-post on 55 minutes.
Villa’s Wright was causing problems for Stevenage though, and he lashed a shot wide of the left hand side five minutes later, much to the relief of the Stevenage supporters.
As regular time drew towards a close, Boro’s hearts were in mouths on two occasions as Pressley and then Wright hit the woodwork with the tie seeming destined for extra time.
Chances came at a premium during the final 30 minutes, with tired legs beginning to show. Williams came close to scoring a long-range curler just after the break. Moriarty looked likely to find the breakthrough with just minutes remaining, only to see a last-ditch Villa challenge deny him at the last.
Villa had their own half-chances during the second period of extra-time, but after 120 minutes of blood and thunder, penalties were signalled to separate the sides, where Villa were perfect from the spot to seal their place in the Fourth Round.