Two goals up inside seven minutes thanks to Keanan Bennetts and Griffiths, we allowed the Magpies back into the contest on a rainy night in the North East and it needed a strike off the bench from Kazaiah Sterling to settle us at 3-1 midway through the second half.
Then, in the 83rd minute, the game went mad! Newcastle made it 3-2, Japhet Tanganga quickly restored our two-goal cushion, only for the hosts to hit back within seconds for 4-3, with Austin then called upon to make a fine save low down to his left to prevent the tie from going into extra time.
With both teams looking dangerous going forward, we finally put the match to bed with a stoppage-time strike from substitute Dylan Duncan to make it 5-3, setting up a two-legged clash with Chelsea in the semi-finals of the prestigious competition.
Reflecting on the game afterwards, 16-year-old striker Griffiths and goalkeeper Austin, 18, explained how they’d been through a range of emotions on the night, while Austin also had a special dedication to fellow Under-18s stopper Jonathan De Bie, who is recovering at home in Belgium after sustaining a serious injury on international duty recently. Here’s what the lads had to say…
On post-match emotions
“We’re very excited. I thought the boys played really well today, we dug deep, even though we conceded some goals we did well to recover and we kept the spirit up. It was unbelievable for everyone. I was on the bench towards the end and everyone was up, as soon as we conceded to make it 3-2 it was disappointment again, then we went 4-2 up, then 4-3 and 5-3… a brilliant game, fantastic! It was a brilliant finish by Dylan Duncan at the end and a fantastic result so now we go again.”
On scoring early
“During the pre-match meetings we’d been told to make a fast start, get into their heads and maybe that would start to make the game easier for us so we came into the match thinking that if we could get an early goal it would do a lot for us.”
Thoughts after going 2-1 down on 50 minutes
“I was a bit nervous. I thought TJ (Eyoma) got fouled in the build-up so for them to get a penalty after that was really disappointing. In a big game, to concede a penalty to go to 2-1, that was a real blow but for us then to come back to 3-1 was fantastic for the boys – a boost of encouragement, everyone was up and ready to go again.”
On the chance to play at St James’ Park
“It was a very good experience. I was quite nervous at the start of the game but as soon as the whistle blew the nerves went, we were focused on the game and it was a great performance from the lads.”
Thoughts on the outcome
“It was a crazy game! It was a bit hectic at the end, a bit manic, but I think we did well to stay in the game and get the goals. In that situation, you’ve got to just try to take a step back, stay calm and make sure you’re concentrating on the right things in the game. Once we conceded, to get another goal after that was good and to maintain that two-goal cushion at the end of the game was really important.”
On struggling to defend Newcastle’s set pieces
“We always knew that they were going to be good from set pieces. We’d looked at a bit of it and tried to set up ways to stop that but I guess where it was so manic at the end, a lot of people were just looking just to get something on the ball and just defend. It’s something to look at when we get back but in the end it was a good effort from all the boys.”
On his vital late save at 4-3
“I’m pleased with it, but we needed to score the goals at the other end so that we could win the game. It was a good experience to play in this game. Obviously we don’t usually get to play in front of a crowd that big (more than 2,800 fans were inside the stadium) and to play at St James’ Park, it was quality so I just enjoyed the experience and enjoyed the night.”
Any regrets from the game?
“After we came in at half-time at 2-0 we were in control of the game and if we’d managed to get that third goal after the break we would have been able to manage the game a bit better and see it out, but in the end we got the result and we’re through to the semi-finals which the boys are really happy about.”
An additional message for fellow goalkeeper Jonathan De Bie
“Obviously Jonathan played in the first game of our FA Youth Cup campaign against Stevenage and we want to do well in the competition to show him our respects. Obviously he’s away in Belgium recovering from his injury so all the boys have wished him well, given him support and if we can do well in this competition it shows him that we’re still fighting for him and for ourselves.”