We had a firm grip on the quarter-final tie in the opening half-an-hour thanks to early strikes from Keanan Bennetts and Reo Griffiths but the home side, backed by more than 2,800 fans, rallied and came right back into contention after the break when Lewis McNall netted from the penalty spot.
Substitute Kazaiah Sterling settled us back down with his sixth goal in the competition this season but when McNall lashed in for 3-2 with seven minutes of normal time remaining, it kick-started a frantic crescendo with both sides exchanging goals and the respective defences falling to pieces.
Centre-half Japhet Tanganga rammed home for 4-2 from a corner, Owen Gallacher hit straight back for Newcastle and after goalkeeper Brandon Austin tipped McNall’s header low around his left-hand post to prevent the tie from going into extra time, substitute Dylan Duncan curled home to finally kill the hosts off in the first of five added minutes, booking us a two-legged tie with Chelsea in the last four – a repeat of our semi-final meeting two years ago.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 0-1 SPURS - KEANAN BENNETTS - 3mins
With the rain coming down, the ball was skidding along the wet surface as we looked to use the expansive St James' Park pitch to our advantage early on. Our positive intent was clear and we took the lead less than three minutes in, Griffiths picking up the ball centrally and laying it wide to Bennetts on the right, who cut in and unleashed an unstoppable left-footed shot past Nathan Harker at his near post.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 0-2 SPURS - REO GRIFFITHS - 7mins
Our blistering start to the game saw us add a second goal inside seven minutes. Bennetts' shot from a tight angle on the left was spilled by Harker at his near post, Tashan Oakley-Boothe saw his attempt blocked by Lewis Gibson at close-range but the ball came to Griffiths and he drilled in from eight yards.
CHANCES: RESURGENT SPELL FOR MAGPIES - 35-39mins
Newcastle started to get a foothold in the game shortly after the half-hour mark and could have got themselves back into it. After Bennetts and Tanganga saw attempts go wide for us, McNall flashed a shot across the face of goal for Newcastle before Gibson's header from a 38th-minute corner sailed the wrong side of the upright. McNall had another go from the right side of the area 60 seconds later but again was marginally off-target.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 1-2 SPURS - LEWIS MCNALL (PEN) - 50mins
The home side came out fighting after the break and pulled one back from the penalty spot on 50 minutes when Adam Wilson, dangerous with his pace down the left all night, shrugged off both TJ Eyoma and Jon Dinzeyi before going to ground under the challenge of Tanganga in the box with the referee pointing to the spot. McNall blasted in, giving his side real belief.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 1-3 SPURS – KAZAIAH STERLING - 64mins
Our shaky spell continued in the wake of Newcastle’s goal but Sterling, on as a first-half substitute for the injured Bennetts, settled our nerves with a clinical strike out of nothing. Griffiths shaped to shoot at the edge of the box but a gap wouldn’t quite open up for him so he instead squared for Sterling, who picked his spot and drilled low across the keeper and into the corner of the net.
Above: Pure joy for Kazaiah Sterling after his goal.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 2-3 SPURS - LEWIS MCNALL - 83mins
We looked comfortable at 3-1 but things got interesting again when Newcastle forced their way back into the game. Wilson raced away down the left channel, Austin could only parry his shot back out into the danger zone but George Marsh bravely intervened at the expense of a corner. The first flag kick was dealt with but Newcastle won a second one, which was swung over and knocked back across goal with McNall, leaning back, there to lash into the roof of the net.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 2-4 SPURS – JAPHET TANGANGA - 86mins
It was game on as far as the home crowd was concerned but they were silenced three minutes later as Samuel Shashoua floated in a corner, Jon Dinzeyi – up from the back – saw his low first-time shot blocked on the goal-line and Tanganga latched onto the rebound to smash into the net.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 3-4 SPURS – OWEN GALLACHER - 87mins
If we believed we’d finally sealed the win, we had to think again as Newcastle – and their fans – came back once more within 60 seconds, Gallacher meeting a cross from the right and steering into the net from eight yards out.
SAVE: KEY STOP FROM AUSTIN DENIES MAGPIES AN EQUALISER – 89mins
We had goalkeeper Austin to thank for maintaining our lead on 89 minutes as he got low down to his left to tip McNall’s stooping header from Mackenzie Heaney’s free-kick around the post. It was a valuable intervention from the stopper to prevent the hosts from drawing level close to the end.
GOAL: NEWCASTLE 3-5 SPURS – DYLAN DUNCAN – 90+1mins
The game was finally settled for sure in the first minute of stoppage time when Sterling rolled the ball across the 18-yard line for Duncan, who curled into the top corner as he fell to the ground, sealing a hard-fought victory.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“Working with young players over the years, this kind of outcome is more normal than abnormal. With these young players, playing in a big stadium, the momentum can change very quickly. It's one of those games where because it was so topsy-turvy I probably need to watch it again to get real context but I thought there was a lot more good than bad tonight. We played really well at times, created lots of chances, lacked cutting edge in certain periods but at critical times we did really well to restore the two-goal lead. We left ourselves a little bit exposed at times but we had the mental strength to bounce back and that’s really pleasing. In an ideal world we wouldn’t have had that rollercoaster, but that's youth football.
“I know it's easy to say after the event but I always trusted the players (when Newcastle threatened to come back). We had an incredibly strong bench as well and at no point did I think we went into panic mode – throughout, I always felt we had enough quality and strength in depth to win the game. The expectation at half-time was that the second half was going to be more difficult than the first and it was, but in fairness to our players I thought they stood up to the challenges.
“I was really pleased for Brandon Austin (following his crucial late save at 4-3). He's been good in training, he and Alfie Whiteman are slugging it out to get the number one jersey and for both of them, that level of competition is really healthy. Brandon defended his box well tonight – it was quite tricky with some of the through balls, especially on the wet and slippery pitch, but I was pleased and the boys were very grateful and acknowledged his contribution in the changing room at the end.”
Newcastle: Harker, Kitchen, Aplin, Longstaff, Bailey (c), Gibson, Gallacher, Goodridge (Heaney 77), McNall, Allan (Smith 68), Wilson. Substitutes (not used): Cass, Watts, Huuhtanen (GK).
Spurs: Austin, Eyoma, Tsaroulla, Marsh (c), Dinzeyi, Tanganga, Shashoua, Skipp, Griffiths (Duncan 73), Oakley-Boothe, Bennetts (Sterling 29). Substitutes (not used): Hinds, Roles, Whiteman (GK).
Goals: Newcastle - McNall 50 (pen), 83, Gallacher 87; Spurs - Bennetts 3, Griffiths 7, Sterling 64, Tanganga 86, Duncan 90+1.
Yellow card: Newcastle - Longstaff 82.
Referee: David Webb.
We conclude the initial phase of the Under-18 Premier League season on Saturday (March 4) with a trip to Arsenal, the derby clash having been postponed at the end of January due to a frozen pitch. Following that, we'll enter the second of three merit groups for the remainder of the campaign, along with the fifth to eighth-placed sides from the league's northern and southern divisions. Kick-off at the Gunners' Colney training centre is at 11am.