Match report by Sam Holter
Luca Ashby-Hammond saved three penalties and lashed home a sudden-death spot kick of his own as Fulham’s Under 18s progressed to the FA Youth Cup fourth round at the expense of Huddersfield Town on a dramatic night at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The sixteen year-old stopper saved penalties from Scott High, Micah Obiero and Jordan Eli in between stepping up to put the Whites in front as Fulham set up a tie at Swansea City following a breathless shoot-out. The visitors showed great character to shrug off the setback of conceding a late equaliser to Obiero and going so close to clinching the contest at the end of normal time, with the highly-rated Ashby-Hammond producing a couple of brilliant reaction stops after Steven Sessegnon had struck the post with his own penalty.
The evening started in the finest possible fashion for the young Whites as eager pressing from Sonny Hilton and Timmy Abraham forced the Terriers into a dreadful error straight from the kick-off. Ben Jackson’s risky backpass played Luke Mewitt into trouble and the goalkeeper’s shanked clearance went straight to Chris Kelly and the Jamaican winger curled home a splendid finish to put Fulham in front with just seventeen seconds on the clock.
Leigh Bromby’s side quickly put the shock of that earl concession behind them and began to play their pretty football. A floated early cross from Jackson saw Dom Tear head fractionally over, before the full-back – determined to make amends for his dreadful decision-making – headed Olly Dyson’s deep cross back across goal and sparked some serious panic in the visitors box before captain Joe Felix took charge.
Nicolas Santos-Close went close to doubling Fulham’s lead after Mewitt came to punch away a corner and failed to get much of a connection. The Terriers’ keeper was indebted to Mason O’Malley’s quick reflexes on the goal-line as the full-back cleared Santos-Close’s effort. Mewitt redeemed himself with a brilliant reflex save to deny Timmy Abraham after the young forward had sprung the Huddersfield offside trap and then gathered a Kelly drive at his near post as the Whites’ shots rained down in quick succession.
A first half that been full of lovely passing patterns ended with some pulsating end-to-end action. The excellent Djed Spence did brilliantly down the right flank to beat a few home defenders and supply the cross for Kelly, only for the Fulham goalscorer to drag his shot wide of goal. Dyson and Tear sent shots similarly wide for Town, whilst Abraham somehow swept a shot wide with the whole goal to aim at from eight yards after Santos-Close had flicked on a Fulham free-kick. The striker – brother of the prolific Chelsea forward Tammy – didn’t reappear after the interval.
The young Whites were indebted to Ashby-Hammond for preserving their advantage when he produced a stunning save to prevent Town top scorer George Danaher from opening his account. The Fulham keeper did brilliantly to palm away the Huddersfield skipper’s volley from Isaac Marriott’s cross – before holding a Danaher header at point blank range as the hosts’ continued to press.
It became a question of how long Steve Wigley’s boys could hold out and the Terriers finally grabbed a deserved equaliser with twelve minutes left to play. It was a goal of the highest quality which saw a flowing passing move culminated in a lovely interchange between O’Malley and High down the left before Obiero ghosted in at the back stick to guide home an emphatic header.
To their immense credit, Wigley’s side finished normal time the stronger and Dan Martin spurned a glorious chance to win the tie in stoppage time when he stroked wide after Felix’s fine pass had parted the Huddersfield back line. The Whites had the better of the openings in the extra half hour too with Mewitt keeping out two Jayden Harris drives before somehow tipping Tyrese Francois’ long-range onto the crossbar with seconds left. You could have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t going to be Fulham’s night after that – but their spirit shone through in the shoot-out.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN U18s (4-2-3-1): Mewitt; O’Malley (Raymond, 97), Gibson (Eli, 95), Thomas, Jackson (Obiero, 62); High, Marriott; Dyson, Daly, Tear; George Danaher. Subs (not used): Bamford, Austerfield.
GOAL: Obiero (78).
FULHAM U18s (4-2-3-1): L. Ashby-Hammond; Spence, Felix, Mundle-Smith, S. Sessegnon; Harris, Francois; Kelly (Martin 72), Santos-Close (de Havilland 105), Hilton; Abraham (York 45). Subs (not used): J. Schwarzer, Asare.
BOOKED: Abraham, Hilton.
GOAL: Kelly (1).