FA YOUTH CUP REPORT: Millwall 1-2 Spurs (AET)

BILLY Mitchell’s magnificent goal was seconds from being enough to knock Spurs out of the FA Youth Cup before the Premier League side’s 93rd-minute equaliser set them up to go through after extra-time in an enthralling contest at The Den on Monday night.

Lions skipper Mitchell’s first-half thunderbolt from 30 yards that gave Spurs goalkeeper Joshua Oluwayemi no chance as it crashed into the top corner off the woodwork looked like it was going to be enough to win this third-round clash, before Spurs levelled through J’Neil Bennett.

Tottenham went in front in the fourth minute of extra-time when Rodel Richards tapped into an empty net.

But Millwall almost immediately hit back as striker Harry Taylor shot from 25 yards and Oluwayemi was relieved to see the ball come back off the post after he got a hand to it.

Millwall produced a monumental effort to score an equaliser, with three Spurs players collapsing with cramp late on. The hosts fell just short, but it was evidence that the work being done in Millwall’s academy has every chance of bearing fruit for the senior side.

Neil Harris and a number of Millwall first-team players were in attendance at The Den, and earlier in the second half they saw George Alexander hit one shot just wide and then hit the crossbar as Millwall pressed to double their lead.

Neither side were willing to give an inch in an intensively competitive game with one crunching 50/50 between Millwall winger Sam Skeffington and Dennis Cirkin leaving the Spurs left-back down and needing treatment.

Spurs began to stretch the game after they brought on Bennett after the break to play left wing-back as they switched to a back three against Millwall’s 4-4-2.

This was a strong Spurs squad that included Maurizio Pochettino, senior boss Mauricio’s son, on the bench.

Former Lions striker Gary Alexander’s son George was a lively presence in Millwall’s attack, and an inventive one as one cross that almost created a second illustrated.

Behind him midfielders Mitchell and Reuben Duncan consistently broke up play deep and in more advanced central positions to invite their team-mates to spring into attack.

Lions goalkeeper Joe Wright was unbeatable before Bennett’s equaliser at the back post from a corner. He had little to do in the first half, but came to his side’s rescue after the break, the pick of his saves a magnificent reflex stop to deny Troy Parrott.

It was an outstanding team effort full of tactical discipline and full commitment, Hayden Muller and Besart Topalloj marshalling the centre of defence and right-back Lewis West still surging forward in the 120th minute. Spurs also deserved credit for the way they never shirked any physical confrontation.

Millwall were first to threaten as Skeffington saw his shot from outside the box deflected for a corner.

Lions left-back Junior Tiensia powered forward as Spurs backed off, and he took the invitation to shoot but his effort took a deflection and looped up to Oluwayemi.

The visitors were being harried and closed down by the hosts but looked dangerous when they did have space to attack into, Republic of Ireland underage international striker Parrott seeing a close-range shot blocked.

Millwall continued to disrupt their opponents and in the 35th minute Mitchell surged forward from midfield before unleashing a brilliant right-footed drive past Oluwayemi.

The expected response from Spurs didn’t immediately materialise as the Lions, so well organised by joint bosses Chris Perry and Larry McAvoy, took a well-deserved lead into the break.

Skeffington had a chance to double the advantage in the first minute of the second half after good work from Duncan and Tiensia, the latter crossing for the winger whose shot deflected over.

Alexander then almost found the top corner with a spectacular scissors kick from the right corner of the box, before the striker’s next effort was scooped onto the crossbar by Oluwayemi.

Millwall stopper Wright twice saved his side, first keeping out Dilan Markanday’s low drive, before then springing to his right to tip away Muller’s intercept header.

The hosts had an excellent chance to go two in front when Mitchell won possession in Spurs’ half before finding Alexander on the right. He curled a superb cross to the far post to find Jayden Davis, and the winger’s first-time volley whistled just past the post.

Spurs brought on Pochettino with 12 minutes left and when he darted in towards goal from the right the offside flag went up, Millwall’s defence so disciplined all night.

Spurs forced a number of corners late on, and Bennett eventually squeezed the ball home to send the game into extra-time.

The Premier League academy side started the extra period on top, and when Parrott crossed it gave Richards a relatively easy task.

Taylor thought he had made it 2-2, but once again Oluwayemi was saved by the woodwork, before Wright made another superb save to deny Pochettino.

Millwall began the second half of extra-time somehow summoning the energy to attack the visitors, and Taylor was twice denied as his efforts were diverted just past Oluwayemi’s post.

Spurs were hanging on in the end, but did just enough.

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly