Ryan Miles was the hat trick hero for Norfolk U18’s on Saturday morning as they booked their place in the FA County Youth Cup Final with a 3-1 victory at the expense of Gloucestershire U18’s.
Norfolk dominated the opening 15 minutes with lots of possession and territory, however for all their dominance they failed to create any meaningful chances.
This was the case until Miles Palmer hit the bar just after the half hour mark with his effort forcing Charlie Dymond to be at full stretch to tip the ball onto the woodwork. Norfolk continued their dominance in the last 10 minutes of the half but couldn’t convert pressure into goal scoring opportunities.
Against the run of play, in the final minute of the first half, a breakaway from Gloucestershire forced Ray Urry to throw himself in the way of a goal bound effort from Jardell Hartley-Keeling.
Half time – Norfolk U18’s 0 - 0 Gloucestershire U18’s
Norfolk started the second period the same way that they started the first by keeping Gloucestershire pinned in their own half. A low cross from Jimmy Morrissey, on the left, caused problems for the Gloucestershire defence as they failed to clear the danger. Ryan Miles was the quickest to react to the bouncing ball and forced a good save from the keeper.
With 12 minutes played in the second half, a long ball forward allowed Palmer to be one-on-one with Dymond in the Gloucestershire net. As the winger knocked the ball round the on-rushing keeper he was brought down, leaving Lloyd Wood no option but to point to the penalty spot. Forward Miles then stepped up to take the penalty to calmly slot the ball home from 12 yards into the bottom right corner.
After going 1-0 down Gloucestershire raised their game. Forward McBeam collected the ball in the centre circle and went on a mazy run, passing numerous defenders, to the by-line where he squared the ball to Mannings to tap home from 5 yards out.
Norfolk’s captain, Billy Johnson then kept his team in the contest with a remarkable save from a venomous shot form 12 yards out.
Shortly after, Palmer made way for Ismael Fatadjo who was an instant threat to the opposition with his pace allowing Norfolk to have a great deal of joy down the left side. This eased some pressure off the Norfolk back line and allowed the home side to weather the storm of an opposition growing in confidence.
Norfolk grew back into the game and James Bemrose coming on for Kieran Hagan with 10 remaining caused more problems for the Gloucestershire defence.
The home side thought they’d won it at the death when in the final minute of added time Bemrose latched onto a long pass forward and headed the ball over the goalkeeper into an empty net, only for his effort to be ruled out by the linesman for offside.
Full Time – Norfolk U18’s 1 - 1 Gloucestershire U18’s
With all to play for in the extra 30 minutes of the match, Gloucestershire were unlucky not to take the lead when they hit the post from 20 yards out after a long spell of possession.
The game opened up as both teams searched for a goal to send them to the final and both goalkeepers were keeping their respective teams in the match with brilliant saves.
As the first period of extra time neared an end, the play became more intense and a key decision swung the tie in Norfolk’s favour. Gloucestershire’s scorer Manning turned from hero to villain when frustration got the better of him and the forward took a swipe at the back of Norfolk’s Daniel Pinhiero’s head. With the Referee in full view of the incident, he showed the player the red card instantly, leaving the visitors down to 10 men for the rest of the tie.
A straight turn around at half time meant that there was little time for either side to catch their breath in this encounter and tired legs were visible across both teams.
Norfolk got the break they needed 5 minutes into the second half when a free kick on the half way line was launched into the Gloucestershire box and the ball bounced kindly for Miles allowing him to blast the ball into the net.
Gloucestershire needing a goal pushed men forward and Norfolk endured 10 minutes of pressure to keep their lead intact.
The visitors’ search for a leveller was leaving them vulnerable at the back however and Johnson spotted this, sending a long kick forward upon regaining possession from a Gloucestershire attack. The captain’s kick was incisive, catching the opposition’s back line high and dry and sending Fatadjo in on goal.
The impactful substitute took the ball into the opposition’s box and under pressure from recovering defenders, calmly passed the ball to Miles for him to hit the ball into an empty net to complete his hat-trick with the last kick of the game.
Norfolk will now meet Staffordshire in the final of the FA County Youth Cup which is due to be played at Staffordshire in April.
Final Score: Norfolk U18’s 3 – 1 Gloucestershire U18’s
Line up for Norfolk U18’s:
Billy Johnson ©, Charlie Hitch, Joshua Ford, Daniel Pinheiro, Ray Urry, Lewis Johnson, Miles Palmer, Archie Galley, Ryan Miles, Kieran Hagan, Jimmy Morrissey
Subs: James Bemrose (Hagan, 82), Isaac Burrage, Ismael Fatadjo (Palmer, 73), Cameron Hudson, Tinashe Katsande.
Referee: Lloyd Wood
Assistants: David Harrison and Robert Claussen
Fourth Official: Thomas Hancock
Player of the Match: Ryan Miles