Aldershot Town under 18s crashed out of the FA Youth Cup on penalties to Gosport Borough despite a determined performance with 10 men.
The game was goalless and timid until Adam Khan Ahmed was shown a controversial straight red card in the 74th minute. His dismissal opened up proceedings as Gosport looked to make use of their numerical advantage.
The hosts thought they’d won the tie when they scored in the 92nd minute but Ryan Griffiths came off the bench to save the day for The Shots with a 95th minute equaliser to send the tie to penalties.
The shootout was a brilliant display of calmness under pressure and finishing with all 13 of the first penalties finding the back of the net until Archie Harris saw his effort saved by the Gosport ‘keeper.
Harris had put in a fantastic performance from centre-back and spent 20 minutes as a makeshift target man having picked up a knock and refusing to go off and see his side reduced to nine men.
After the game, Lead professional Development Phase Coach James Edmonds – who led the side from the dugout – was keen to ensure his side keep their heads high after an unfortunate end to a good performance.
“That sums it up in terms of rollercoaster of emotions, your highs and your lows. That’s why kids play football and these cup experiences are real tests in terms of how you manage the situations and how you manage your emotions. The penalty shootout is a lottery and to be fair, every penalty was good.”
“They managed to score and their keeper pulled off a save to take them through and he lives the highs of that and we have to live the lows. It was a resilient performance from them though and it was good to see their spirit at the end in terms of them going up and supporting and having the team huddle around the penalty spot. That’s what you do it for. That’s what we’re here for; to develop these individuals and make them good people and it’s good we showed that team spirit.”
Edmonds was proud of his how his side managed to stay in the game following Khan Ahmed’s controversial dismissal and to fight back from staring a late defeat in the face.
“I don’t want to mention the referee too much, it’s been said we don’t feel it’s a red card. He deemed it was, so we had to change and adapt in that situation. We had a few injuries that we were not expecting but that’s part and parcel with football and we had to adapt.
“Ryan Griffiths’ got the goal there who’s a first year so an excellent finish from him and as I said that team spirit performance where they all put it in, it was a valiant effort to get that goal and take it to penalties.”
Last week saw the academy’s under 21s defeat Andover Town 4-1 in the Hampshire Senior Cup and Edmonds says there’s a lot of talent within the academy ranks.
“We’ve got a flood of talent coming through, Ryan’s one of them who was the goal scorer for Andover so actually we had 5 goal scorers for Aldershot in that game! He’s certainly a talent to look out for; we’ve got a wealth of talent in 18s-21s and the 17s. The pathway’s there and hopefully we can get as many boys through as possible.
“Their team spirit is excellent. we questioned it at the start of the year but since have definitely gone and built on it. It’s about making better people and that’s what they show us in training. We’ll make sure they bounce back from this, have a bit of fun, have a bit of recovery and go again Monday.”