FA YOUTH CUP
Semi-final, second leg
Spurs 1-2 Everton
Our fantastic FA Youth Cup run ended at the final hurdle against Everton at the Lane on Wednesday night.
Two goals in the first half from livewire striker Wayne Rooney did all the damage as we lost the semi-final second leg 2-1 and bowed out 4-2 on aggregate.
Naturally shellshocked from those early blows, it was to the lads full credit that they made a real fight of it in the second half and pulled a goal back via Ben Bowditch in the closing stages. Ten minutes earlier and who knows.
Rooney, so impressive in last week's first leg at Goodison Park, took the game by the scruff of the neck in the crucial opening period.
Although Everton shaded it territorially he was the difference with two goals right out of the top drawer.
Michael Symes had already lifted a one-on-one chance over the bar and Rob Burch saved superbly to keep out Rooney's volley when the striker opened the scoring. A free-kick was headed into the box and Rooney turned on a sixpence before sliding the ball past Burch.
John Sutton responded with a shot just wide from 20 yards but Rooney was there again after 18 minutes, heading over from close range when he should have done better.
Rooney's lob drifted just over after 32 minutes before he doubled the lead on the night six minutes later. This time his attempted shot from a 30-yard free-kick hit the wall but he simply lashed the rebound first time into the top corner.
Now with a mountain to climb, the lads rolled their sleeves up and attempted to get back into the tie.
Our best move of the half involving Mark Hughes, Nicky Wettner and Sutton resulted in a corner swung in by Wettner met perfectly by Ronnie Henry, whose goalbound header hit Symes and bounced to safety.
On the stroke of half-time, Dean Marney's corner was headed a fraction wide by Hughes.
The lads appeared to kick-off the second half with more belief. Sutton looped Stephen Kelly's deep cross over and the arrival of David Galbraith added a spark down the left flank.
Pettinger did well to claim Galbraith's cross and Lee Barnard and Marney somehow failed to provide the finishing touch when Galbraith hit the byline and cut the ball back across goal.
Still fighting for every ball, Marney was inches away with a speculative effort from 30 yards after 69 minutes and a similar effort from Barnard 10 minutes later drifted just wide.
The measure of our dominance in the second half was that it took until the 84th minute for Everton to create another chance. Symes' flick found Rooney but Burch was out quickly and the striker poked his effort wide.
Our efforts were finally rewarded after 86 minutes. After a spell of intense pressure Kelly whipped in a cross to the near post and Ben Bowditch headed home from close range.
Still we poured forward and the visitors were forced to block from Bowditch and Sutton as crosses rained in from Kelly and Galbraith.
Pettinger tipped Sutton's towering header over and then gathered more comfortably as first Sutton and then Michael Malcolm threw themselves in in injury time.
Everton were rattled in those final stages but time finally ran out.
The lads left the field with heads bowed but they can deservedly hold their heads high for a wonderful run that started back in Walsall in December.
And, of course, there's always next season...
Spurs: Burch, Kelly, McKie, Hughes, Henry, O'Donoghue, Marney (Malcolm, 78), Barnett (Bowditch, 65), Sutton, Barnard, Wettner (Galbraith, 52). Unused subs: Rutherford, Noto.
Everton: Pettinger, Moogan, Crowder, Schumacher, Gardside (Flood, 80), Moogan, Brown, Beck (Colbeck, 75), Symes, Rooney, Carney. Unused subs: Cole, Jones, Gerrard.