Charlton’s U18s heroically advanced to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup, defeating West Ham 5-4 on penalties after extra-time ended 3-3.
The young Addicks side refused to accept defeat, thrice equalising, including Jeremy Santos’ stunning solo goal two minutes from time, to stave off elimination.
The two sides met on a bitterly-cold night at the Chigwell Construction Stadium, with the windchill forcing heavy coats on the bench and long sleeves on the pitch.
West Ham started on the front foot, but it was the Addicks who had the game’s first opportunity as Luca Albon drove into the box, twisted away from his marker and fired a stinging effort into the palms of Krisztian Hegyi.
It took just six minutes for the first goal of the night to fly in, the hosts gifted a chance to take the lead from the penalty spot when Veron Parkes went down under a heavy challenge from Richard Chin. On first glance it appeared that the Charlton midfielder won the ball cleanly, but the referee pointed to the spot and Parkes made no mistake to give West Ham an early lead.
Chin made amends for his penalty concession in the 14th minute when the midfielder was first to a speculative long ball, turned away from the onrushing ‘keeper, and fired a sharp low finish into the bottom corner to restore parity.
The Hammers maintained control of the ball following the frenetic start, but the Addicks’ defene kept them comfortably at bay, reducing the hosts’ attacking thrust to speculative long-range efforts from Keenan Appiah-Forson and Dan Chesters.
Charlton began to dominate proceedings in the final 15 minutes of the half, but that allowed West Ham to counter and captain Billy French was forced to make a timely interception to keep the scores level.
The match descended into an end-to-end encounter with both sides firmly pressing the gas pedal. Played at a fervent pace from start to finish, it was West Ham who had the final attack of the half, but French’s towering headed clearance ensured it would remain level at the break.
The second half started with the same nonstop pace of the first and Mipo Odubeko regained West Ham’s lead five minutes after the break. Charlie Barker lost track of a high swirling ball and Odubeko gathered, rounded the ‘keeper, and finished high into the net.
It was the second of two successive corners that saw the Addicks get back on level terms in the 64th minute, no more than they deserved after commanding the play following West Ham’s second. French rose highest to power home Aaron Henry’s pinpoint centre as the young Addicks again found a route back into match.
Having restored parity, Charlton went in search of their first lead of the night and substitute Dylan Gavin saw his effort blocked after running through on goal.
After so nearly going in front, it was West Ham who were inches from a third, Nathan Harvey making a spectacular save to keep out Lennon Peake’s low drive from the edge of the box. The Hammers’ forward was already turning away in celebration before Harvey’s strong hand kept the scores level.
Charlton’s valiant efforts were seemingly spoiled in the 75th minute when Odubeko went down in the box under minimal contact. The shock from both sets of players was evident as the whistle blew and the referee pointed to the spot, Odubeko making no mistake to give the hosts’ a 3-2 lead.
Searching for a third equaliser on the night, Henry went close in bizarre circumstances, seeing his corner directly nick the crossbar.
Quite simply, the young Addicks refused to accept defeat and finally snatched their third equaliser in the dying embers of the match courtesy of a truly special Santos effort. The forward picked the ball up on the edge of the box turned away from one defender, beat a second, and fired a top-poked effort into the far corner to level in the 88th minute.
Santos sprinted to the corner flag and the Charlton bench streamed down the touchline to celebrate with the night’s saviour.
With nothing to separate the two sides after 90 breathless minutes, the match headed for extra-time.
After seeing a pair of penalty decisions go against the Addicks, Charlton thought they had a spot-kick of their own when Dylan Gavin was hauled down, but the referee waved away the vocal appeals.
Charlton dominated extra-time, but a rare foray forward from the Hammers led to the Addicks’ best chance to win it in the 113th minute. Santos led the counter, waiting for the perfect moment to pick out substitute Tyreece Campbell who took the ball down perfectly on the run before firing against the inside of the post. The entire ground rose in expectation of a rippling net, but the ball somehow stayed out.
Despite controlling extra-time it took an unbelievable last ditch block from Henry to deny West Ham a winner, the midfielder throwing his body on the line to keep out Kai Corbett’s effort from six yards out with time expiring.
After 120 minutes of see-saw football, the match was to be decided by spot-kicks, a harsh fate for either side who had truly given everything in the driving rain of east London.
Santos stepped up first, successfully firing his side in front with the aid of the post. Harrison Ashby then leveled for West Ham before Gavin saw his penalty saved and Will Greenridge blasted high over the bar to keep the scores at 1-1 after two each. Both teams then notched each of their next three with Henry, Barker, and Aidoo finding the net for the Addicks.
Heading into sudden-death, French sent the ‘keeper the wrong way to put Charlton within touching distance of the fourth round and safe passage was confirmed moments later when West Ham captain Sam Caiger chipped his decisive effort over the bar.
Jubilant scenes followed as the youthful Addicks celebrated in the corner, sliding into each other’s arms on the muddy surface as the bench poured out to join in the celebrations.
They will now take on either Newport County or Blackburn Rovers away for a place in the fifth round.
West Ham U18s: Hegyi, Greenidge, Appiah-Forson (Stroud 115’), Nsumbu, Caiger (c), Parkes (80’ Swyer), Chesters (Corbett 90’), Odubeko, Nebyla, Peake (Diallo 72’)
Subs (not used): Okotcha, Jinadu, Fevrier
Booked: Peake (57’ Late challenge on French), Greenridge (71’ Simulation), Ashby (78’ Late challenge on Henry), Nsumbu 90’ (Late challenge on Barker)
Goals: Parkes 6’, Odubeko 50’, 75’
Charlton U18s: Harvey, Barton (86’ Thompson-Fearon), Aidoo, Henry, Barker, French (c), Agyemang, Chin (Gavin 55’), Santos, Albon (77’ Campbell), Afrane-Kesey (Buhari 90’)
Subs (not used): Beadle, Garande, Williams
Booked: Barker (102’ Foul on Diallo)
Goals: Chin 14’, French 65’, Santos 88’
(Report by Benjy Nurick)
(Photos courtesy of West Ham United)