Penalty joy as Hatters U18s reach FA Youth Cup quarter-finals

Luton Town U18s
Luton Town U18s

Luton Town U18s reached the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1997 after beating Preston North End 5-3 on penalties at Deepdale on Tuesday evening.

With the scores 1-1 in injury time, Preston missed a glorious chance to progress in the 119th minute, when Dylan Davidson blasted a spotkick over the bar.

However, in the shootout, Town held their nerve, scoring all five penalties with aplomb, while Freddie Tracey’s effort hit the post as Luton set up a trip to Blackburn Rovers.

The visitors made one change from their victory at Oldham in the previous round, with captain Frankie Musonda injured and replaced by Kyran McGhan-George.

Hatters got off to the perfect start though when Jack Snelus struck his sixth goal of the season, finishing superbly inside the box from George Murray’s cross.

Luton then had several opportunities for a second, but could’t force the ball home as two shots were cleared off the line before home keeper Mathew Hudson blocked McGhan-George’s effort.

Murray then shot wide on 12 minutes while Alex Atkinson tested Hudson from distance six minutes later with the keeper parrying the ball away.

Visiting keeper Liam Gooch was finally called into action on half an hour, saving Lilywhites’ left-winger Joshua Earl’s header.

However, Hatters then had second goal harshly ruled out for offside after Atkinson’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected goalwards by a Preston defender, and Snelus tapped home, only to be denied by a very late offside flag.

James Justin drilled a shot wide from 20 yards as the half ended with Luton in front.

The Hatters then had Justin to thank at the other end seven minutes into the second period, bravely blocking from Clive Smith, but Luton still came forward, leading goalscorer Freddie Hinds just wide on the hour.

Preston were denied by the post on 72 minutes, when Freddie Tracey’s glancing header came back off the woodwork, while Gooch saved well from Jonathan Lunney.

U16s defender Ciaren Jones came on for McGhan-George, while Snelus was off target twice, before Preston levelled with seconds remaining as Earl guided a header past Gooch to take the game to extra-time.

Hinds made way for James Verney, but it was Preston who came closest when defender Jack Burgoyne headed over the bar.

Paul Driver’s side came close again on 113 minutes only for Cameron McJannet’s effort to bounce inches the wrong side of the post.

Then, with just moments left, McJannet conceded a penalty after felling Davidson in the area, but the Preston forward fired his penalty over the bar.

That meant spot kicks, and as Justin, Snelus and Bakinson hit the target, Tracey put his shot against the post as Luton had the advantage.

Kavan Cotter made it 4-2 to the visitors, while Davidson made amends to give Atkinson a chance for glory, and he made no mistake to give the Hatters their fourth successive away victory in the competition.

Hatters: Gooch, Bean, McJannet, McGhan-George (Jones 72), Famewo, Atkinson, Bakinson, Justin, Snelus, Murray (Cotter 82), Hinds (Verney 91).

Subs not used: Davey, Brown.