Cambridge United U18s pulled off a mighty FA Youth Cup shock as they dumped Premier League giants Chelsea out of the competition at the Fourth Round Stage with an accomplished 1-0 victory at the Abbey Stadium...
Remaining resolute defensively and posing a threat in the final third, a thunderous header from captain Jaydyn Lott on the half an hour mark proved to be the famous matchwinner as the young U’s dug in to equal their best-ever run in the competition and book a clash with Sheffield Wednesday on home soil next.
Aiming to make further exploits by reaching the last 16 for the second successive season, the young U’s were quietly optimistic of an upset after powering their way to this stage with a 4-2 success over Stevenage, a euphoric 4-5 win at Portsmouth and a 0-6 dismantling of Colchester United. The nine-time winners, who previously dispatched Bradford City 3-1, sat 3rd in the Premier League South and were out to improve on last season’s run to the semi-finals.
Head Coach Jimmy Unwin opted with two changes from the convincing Third Round victory, restoring defender Dan Carey-Evans and winger Dan Barton for Ty Ewans-Findlay and Oscar Winterbone respectively.
In a rampant start, the Blues were thwarted by Tom Finch’s heroics within the opening seconds. After being teed up from Joshua Acheampong, Tudor Mendel-Idowu lashed at goal but the U’s goalkeeper applaudingly pawed past his right post.
The U’s, who had won five on the bounce prior, responded well to the pressure and were playing with confidence – England youth international Kai Yearn struck their first attempt on the 12th minute.
Five minutes later, Leo Castledine went close after slight confusion within the penalty area following Donnell McNeilly’s cross, but the hosts cleared their lines and continued to persevere.
Holding their own and imposing themselves, United sparked pandemonium on the 32nd minute, taking the lead through captain Jaydyn Lott - who rose highest to thump a header against the crossbar and past the line.
The unity in the celebrations that followed gave them the impetus to impose themselves on the game. Unwin’s group almost punished their Category One opponents again on 41 when the ball fell invitingly to Ronan Ismaili from 10 yards, who lashed against the post.
Starting the second half in the ascendency, the lively Mendel-Idowu picked out a header from the corner of the six-yard box on the 46th minute, but was denied again by Finch who dived well.
Rising to the occasion, United’s number one was pressed into action on the eve of the hour mark, denying McNeilly who had raced onto a sublime through ball.
With a freedom to roam in the second half, Glenn McConnell cut in from the left and pulled the trigger which was deflected narrowly over the crossbar.
Chelsea were agonisingly close to levelling the scoring on the 65th minute when Somtochukwu Boniface whipped in a teasing cross, but Castledine and Mendel-Idowu got in each other’s way as they both missed the chance of poking home from a matter of yards.
Despite continuing to race down the wings and float into the mixer, the Blues simply couldn’t overpower a determined and dogged United backline, who saw the game out impeccably to ensure one of the biggest shocks in the 2022/23 season.
Cambridge United: Finch, Scales, Lott, Carey-Evans, Sandiford, Hoddle, McConnell, Barton (Kaunda, 71), Yearn, Ismaili, Njoku (Usman, 85)
Subs Not Used: Briggs, Staszewski, Winterbone, Chadwick, Tyler-Cowlin
Goalscorers: Lott (32)
Bookings: Sandiford, Njoku, Finch
Chelsea: Merrick, Runham (Stutter, 55), Acheampong, Hughes, Murray-Campbell, Silcott-Duberry (Boniface, 45), McMahon, Dyer (Flower, 85), Mendel-Idowu, McNeilly, Castledine
Subs Not Used: Curd, Golding, Rak-Sakyi, George
Referee: Abigail Byrne