FA Youth Cup first round: Dagenham & Redbridge 2 Stevenage Borough 2 (Daggers win 3-2 on penalties)
Daggers progress to second round for first time in their history
GOALKEEPER Danny Sambridge was the hero for Dagenham & Redbridge as they advanced to the second round of the FA Youth Cup for the first time ever on Monday evening.
Having taken a two-goal lead early in the game, they were punished by a controversial equalising penalty in the final minute of normal time, which also saw them reduced to 10 men.
After 30 gruelling minutes of extra time, with players cramping up all over the pitch, the tie went to a shoot-out.
At 2-2 after four spot kicks each, Sambridge saved from Boro captain Farai Halam, although referee Constantine Hatzidakis ordered to be retaken.
The Dagger stopper then guessed correctly again before confidently stepping up to take the deciding penalty and blasting past opposite number Kwame Forhdah.
The eventual drama felt a lifetime after the initial energetic, but nervous, opening from both sides, where Sambridge nearly gifted Stevenage an opening goal on five minutes when he spilled Wilson Carvalho’s tame shot, but bravely atoned by diving on the rebound.
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Rangy winger Louis Dennis was the most creative player on show early on and his smooth interchange of passes with Harry Larner created the home side’s first opportunity, only for striker Levi Mathurine to be halted for shirt pulling.
It came as no surprise that when Daggers took the lead in the 17th minute, it was Dennis who applied the finishing touch.
When winger Tony Jacobs floated an inviting ball into the area from the right, the wide-man ghosted past his marker and directed a` pinpoint header past Boro keeper Kwame Forhdah.
One became two five minutes later when Dennis angled a through ball to Mathurine, who timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap, sprinted clear of the defence and slotted past Forhdah from a tight angle.
Stevenage, boasting the best player on the pitch in central midfielder Joe Bricknell, did put the ball in the net on 39 minutes, but Harley Kelly’s strike was ruled out for offside.
Bricknell’s opposite number Joe Sheldon also was also attempting to pull the strings for Daggers, but the visitors who emerged for the second half with the most intent.
Following a double substitution, Boro oozed urgency and enthusiasm, hitting the Daggers’ penalty area with a barrage of balls forward.
Michael Thalassitis shot wide before home captain Ian Gayle nearly scored a bizarre own goal when he looped a 40-yard back-pass over Sambridge, but was relieved to see it bounce over the crossbar.
Boro went close again on 63 minutes when Bricknell’s deft touch freed substitute Adeoye Yusuff, whose delicate chip skimmed the top of the crossbar.
Bricknell was again the provider moments later, this time with a curled through ball with the outside of his foot, but striker Tobi Amokeodo could not boast the same composure and blasted over the bar.
With Daggers now looking to stem the tide of attacks, the now limping Gayle began to assert himself at the heart of defence by winning headers, driving clearances forward and audibly lifting his team-mates.
Boro pulled one back in the 90th minute when Akin Daromola’s cross was toed home by Thalassitis before, before further late drama sent the game to extra time.
In the sixth minute of injury time, with Daggers down to 10 due to injury treatment, Amokeodo drilled a ball across the box and Thalassitis’ close-range shot appeared to hit defender Adam Gemeli in the face - which was confirmed by a visible mouth injury - but the official gave a penalty and sent him off.
After Bricknell scored from the spot, a scrappy, tired 30 minutes of extra time was played where Gayle held his side together at the back and forced penalties.
Dennis and Jack Jeffries missed from the spot, while Tom Davie and Joe Sheldon were successful, but it was Sambridge who took his team-mates’ acclaim and set up a home tie in the second round against Bristol Rovers.
Dagenham & Redbridge: Sambridge, Gemeli, Larner, Gayle (captain), Jefries, Frost, Jacobs (Davie, 71 mins), Sheldon, Nash (Densham, 82 mins), Dennis, Mathurine (Sands, 71 mins).
Subs not used: Gumbs.
Stevenage Borough: Forhdah, Daromola, Perry (Yussuf, h/t), Bricknell, Halam (captain), Dicks, Kelly (Hewitt, h/t), Diack, Carvahlo (Golder, 59 mins), Amokeodo, Thalassitis.
Subs not used: Warren, Morrison-Derbyshire.