Palace’s under-18s play only their second FA Youth Cup home tie in five seasons against Newcastle United this evening.
Paddy McCarthy’s team have enjoyed a fantastic season so far and sit eight points clear of second-placed Millwall at the top of the U18s Professional Development League, and will be looking forward to showing the Eagles fans what they’re all about on the hallowed turf of Selhurst Park in a 7pm kick-off.
The Eagles will be hoping to reach the fifth round of the competition for the first time since 2010, with the victors of the tie in south London facing a trip to Norwich City in the next round.
How they got here
Palace snuck into the fourth round by edging past Mansfield Town on penalties after the sides had played out a 2-2 draw. Joseph Hungbo opened the scoring for the Eagles before they were pegged back to force extra-time, and despite once again taking the lead through Tariq Ossai, a second equaliser for the Stags set up a shootout, which Palace won 6-5 and Tariq Mitchell scoring the crucial spot-kick.
Newcastle had a much easier passage to this stage despite facing a long trek down to Brighton and Hove Albion, but they smashed the Seagulls by a 5-0 scoreline at the Amex Stadium with Kelland Watts grabbing the only goal of the first half. After the restart he would complete his hat-trick via two penalties, with Lewis Cass and Kurtis Russell adding the others.
Season so far
McCarthy’s team exploded out of the traps in the league, remaining unbeaten in their first eight games and bouncing back from their first defeat by recording five straight wins to see them surge ahead of their rivals. Due to a postponed game against Millwall, they have only played once since Christmas which came last Saturday against ex-Magpie Craig Bellamy’s Cardiff City, but Palace suffered a 1-0 defeat in south Wales - only their third loss of the campaign.
Newcastle have enjoyed differing fortunes this season having failed to win any of their 11 U18 Premier League North fixtures before the new year, with their Youth Cup triumph over Brighton being one of only two wins in cup competitions. However, they recorded a shock 5-2 thrashing of Manchester City in a second v bottom clash last weekend to climb off the foot of the table, and register a first league win since April.
View from the opposition
Dave Watson: "Since the Brighton game, our focus has been on the league but in the back of everyone's heads is the FA Youth Cup, especially with the draw as it'll be great for the lads to play at a big ground.
"Palace are going very well at the top of the league and they have some fantastic attacking players but we'll do our homework on them, as they'll do on us, and on the night we'll see who is the better team.
"If we totally give Crystal Palace our focus and we're well-organised, we've got a good chance. We just need everyone to carry out their roles on the pitch, so if everyone does that then win or lose, we hold our hands up."
Watch Out For
Joseph Hungbo is the under-18s’ top scorer this season, having netted 10 goals in his 17 appearances to date including one against Mansfield in the last round. Fellow attackers Francis Jno Baptiste and Brandon Oddy both have eight to their name, while Under-20 World Cup winner Nya Kirby dropped down from the development squad to feature in the Mansfield tie.
Danish under-17 international Elias Sorensen tops the scoring charts for the Toon this term with seven strikes from nine league outings, while Thomas Allan has chipped in with another five in all competitions.
Youth Cup history
Palace have won the competition on two occasions, which came in 1977 when they beat Everton 1-0 thanks to a Terry Fenwick strike. The same player would also score the only goal of the game 12 months later when an Eagles team including Peter Nicholas, Billy Gilbert and Ian Walsh beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Highbury to retain the trophy - read more.
The Eagles have appeared in two finals during the 1990s, losing to Manchester United’s famed Class of 92 including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt 6-3 on aggregate, and then five years later a strong Leeds United team with Harry Kewell, Paul Robinson, Jonathan Woodgate and Alan Smith beat Palace 3-1 on aggregate.
Newcastle have also lifted the trophy on two occasions – the first coming in 1962 when they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1with club legend Bobby Moncur in their ranks, and then in 1985 a Paul Gascoigne-inspired side thrashed Watford 4-1 in the second leg after a goalless draw.
Tickets are available to purchase in advance in blocks G & H of the Main Stand, and are priced at £10 for adults and £1 for under-18s.
They can be purchased from the main Box Office situated within the Club Store.
Tickets can be booked online without the need for a membership, at the Selhurst Park box office or by calling 08712 000 071.
The Fanzone will be open at 5.30pm with the Palace for Life Foundation running a series of fun events for supporters, as well as interviews on stage with a Palace Academy player and staff.
Turnstiles open at 5.30pm.
Should the game finish level after 90 minutes, extra-time and penalties will be used to ensure a winner on the night.