Crystal Palace’s under-18 side agonisingly missed out on a place in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup, going down on penalties to Sheffield Wednesday after a thrilling 4-4 draw at Hillsborough.
Palace forward Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong fired a hat-trick in normal time but his heroics were only enough to take the tie into extra time. And although Hiram Boateng’s leveller took the game all the way to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out, it was the Owls who came out on top as centre back Brad Betason struck the decisive spot-kick.
The 120 minutes was full of action, with eight goals, three penalties and a red card keeping the Hillsborough crowd captivated in what was a breathless two hours of football.
The impressive Berkeley-Agyepong put the Eagles well in control during the first half, giving the visitors a two-goal advantage.
But Wednesday gave themselves a foothold in the tie and ultimately turned the tide of the match with a neat finish from Jack Stobbs right on half time.
Buoyed by the timing of their goal, the young Owls turned the game on its head, as a quickfire double from Jack Taylor and Beatson put the home side 3-2 in front.
Des Bulpin’s young charges responded well though, with Berkeley-Agyepong completing a memorable treble to draw Palace level – but the drama was far from over.
Eight minutes from time, the visitors had a golden chance to win the tie in 90 minutes. Ibby Akanbi was sent clean through and when the in-form striker was hauled down in the box by Matt Penney, the referee had no option but to show the defender a straight red card for denying the frontman a goalscoring opportunity.
England under-17 full back Mandela Egbo stepped up from 12 yards to take the pressure kick, but he smashed his penalty high and wide to give the 10-man hosts hope.
It looked as though the Owls had taken full advantage right at the death, when Franck Betra converted from close range – but his celebrations were short-lived as the goal was ruled out for handball.
But Wednesday did get their noses back in front during the first period of extra time. Having been denied a goal in the final minute of the 90, Betra turned provider when he was brought down in the box by Eagles keeper Bradley Comins.
The young glovesman atoned for his error by brilliantly keeping out Charlie Daws’ spot kick, only to see the Wednesday man drill home the rebound.
There was still time for more excitement though and a third penalty, when Kyle Spence was brought down by Joe Wildsmith in the Wednesday box, giving the referee no option but to point to the spot yet again.
Following the two previous misses though, one of Bulpin’s more experienced players, Hiram Boateng, stepped up and drew on all of his nous to level the game up again at 4-4.
But ultimately his strike proved in vain, as the Owls triumphed 4-2 in the shootout, with Beatson hammering his decisive kick past Comins to seal a place in the hat for the fourth round draw.
It was tough luck for Palace, who had more than played their part in a pulsating cup tie, from which they can take plenty of positives.