FA Youth Cup journey ends at Molineux
Wolves 3-0 Spurs (FA Youth Cup)
Sat 12 February 2022, 14:58|Tottenham Hotspur
Wolves made home advantage count as they scored three unanswered goals to dump our Under-18s out of the FA Youth Cup at Molineux on Saturday afternoon.
Having dispatched Ipswich Town and West Bromwich Albion in comprehensive fashion to make it this far, we never really got going in the fifth round tie, Aaron Keto-Diyawa's 17th-minute header added to by a brace from Tyler Roberts after the break as we struggled to control possession until the latter stages of each half.
Rio Kyerematen had our best chance shortly after Wolves' opener but was denied by goalkeeper Palmi Arinbjornsson, while we were indebted to his opposite number Luca Gunter, as he made no fewer than eight blocks or saves in the second period to prevent the hosts from racking up a bigger win. With the match finishing 3-0, it was the first time we've failed to score at Under-18 level since 11 December and marked a disappointing change of fortunes for us in the high-profile competition in front of a large crowd at a Premier League stadium.
Coach Stuart Lewis made one change from the team that thrashed West Brom 6-1 in round four with Jamie Donley coming in for Jordan Hackett. His left-back berth was taken by Brandon Bryan-Waugh, who switched from right-back, and it was down his side that Wolves - sixth in the northern division of the Under-18 Premier League - looked to capitalise from an early stage, Nathan Fraser going close on a couple of occasions before Dexter Lembikisa crossed for Keto-Diyawa to plant a header across Gunter and into the net to give the hosts an early lead.
We nearly found a response on 25 minutes when a good turn in midfield by skipper Alfie Devine saw him play the ball out to Donley on the right, he then slid it forward for Kyerematen to have a shot at goal from inside the box on that side, but Arinbjornsson clawed his attempt away. Harry Birtwistle's shot deflected just wide at the other end before Fraser had a couple more attempts, lobbing Gunter while he was stranded outside his area but seeing his effort headed away by Alfie Dorrington as it drifted towards the empty net before firing over on the stretch from inside the box after Roberts' cross from the right.
We'd have wanted to reset at half-time but it was Wolves who continued on the front foot, mounting a flurry of attacks in the first five minutes after the restart. Gunter made two saves in as many minutes from Fraser - the first a superb reaction to keep out a back-post header - before subsequently stopping Roberts' shot-on-the-turn with his legs after Birtwistle's effort had been blocked in the six-yard box. Still Wolves came at us, Lembikisa hitting the near post and Fraser's effort on the rebound blocked well by Max McKnight as we just couldn't get hold of the ball for long enough spells.
We were duly punished as, after Gunter routinely denied Fraser again, Birtwistle attacked down the right and slid across goal for Roberts to bundle home for 2-0 on 63 minutes. Kyerematen was narrowly off-target with a free-kick for us as we approached the mid-way point of the second half but there was to be no retort and instead we had another let-off as Fraser was denied first by Dorrington on the line, then again by Gunter.
There was no stopping Roberts as he breezed in from the right before picking out the far corner on his left foot for 3-0 with 19 minutes remaining and from there, we had no way back, Gunter later tipping Roberts' rising drive over the top before rounding off a busy second half with a double save from Birtwistle and Roberts to ensure he at least won his duel with the latter. It was scant consolation, though, with our young team - featuring only two second-year scholars, everyone else either a first-year or Under-16s player - left to reflect on what might have been, while Wolves marched on to a quarter-final match at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.
'The performance was not to the level that we expect'
Coach Stuart said: "It was a really tough game against a physical, experienced Under-18 team and the boys probably took too long to get acclimatised to the challenges that the game brought, in terms of the occasion and playing in front of a crowd in a high-profile stadium. We're disappointed, as much with the performance as the result. The performance was not to the level that we expect of ourselves and not enough individual players stood out or showed their potential.
"We spoke about having a good start, but going 1-0 down doesn't mean you're out of the game, you need that belief to get back into it and we probably needed a little bit more belief and purpose to what we were trying to do. It's a very inexperienced, young team and I'm sure the players will take loads from the game and hopefully use that going forward. It's important that we take those feelings that we had during and after the game and use them to scaffold our next steps as we look to push on in the next few months."
Wolves 3-0 Spurs (FA Youth Cup)
Wolves: Arinbjornsson, Lembikisa, Kandola, Tipton (c), Hubner, Keto-Diyawa (Esen 89), Birtwistle, Griffiths, Fraser, Rees (Mabete 80), Roberts (Farmer 80). Substitutes (not used): Storer, Francis-Burrell, Ashworth, Reynolds.
Spurs: Gunter, McKnight, Bryan-Waugh (Linton 68), Willhoft-King, Dorrington, Sayers, Donley, Kyerematen, Williams, Devine (c), Bloxham (Torraj 55). Substitutes (not used): Hayton, Heaps, Abbott, Owen, Andiyapan.
Goals: Wolves - Keto-Diyawa 17, Roberts 63, 71.
Yellow cards: Wolves - Hubner 12, Roberts 45+2; Devine 38.
Referee: Richie Watkins.
Venue: Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton.
Weather: Light cloud, cold, seven degrees.