Blackpool’s Youth Team suffered injury time heartbreak in the third round of The FA Youth Cup, falling to a 4-3 defeat at Millwall.
The crucial knockout blow came in the 97th minute when Millwall forward Conor Wilkinson pounced on a rebound from three yards, after his initial shot had been magnificently saved by Conor Hunt.
Blackpool‘s performance didn’t deserve such a cruel ending and coach John Hills was understandably devastated.
“I’m absolutely gutted, especially for the lads. For them to score so deep into injury time is devastating.
The third round tie, played at The Den, started brilliantly for The Seasiders, as they took the lead after just 55 seconds. A corner routine, straight off the training ground, worked perfectly to allow 15-year-old Henry Cameron to slot past Thomas Wellham.
Unfortunately The Seasiders could only hold on to the lead for two minutes, with Millwall winger Jason Twum seeing his cross cleared into the path of team-mate Wilkinson.
Blackpool restored their lead on 10 minutes after a moment of brilliance. Conor Ready picked the ball up just inside the Millwall half, flicked the ball over the head of a helpless Millwall player and burst forward down the left. As the Millwall defence backed off, he cut inside another player before curling in a spectacular strike from the edge of the area.
The wonder strike was the stand-out moment of the game, in a match full of quality. Hills was delighted with the striker.
“In and around the box Conor is lethal at finishing and he showed it there. It was an absolute wonder finish that he created out of nothing.”
The blistering start to the game continued and Blackpool let their lead slip two minutes after scoring again, this time Wilkinson turned provider to tee the ball up for strike partner Charlie Renny.
Amazingly, the first four goals were all scored in the first 12 minutes of the match, with the next then coming eight minutes later.
Cameron played the ball to Ade Cole in the box and the midfielder controlled the ball and fired Pool back into the lead. Referee Stuart Franklin consulted his linesman over appeals for a handball before giving the goal to make the score 3-2.
The intensity of the game finally relented after that, and after a breath-taking first-half Blackpool held the lead at the interval.
The Lions started the second-half strongly and equalised for the third time after 51 minutes, a clever one-two between Renny and Twum led to the tricky left winger firing in a shot from 15 yards.
The game then became cagey, with neither team committing as many players forward. As a result, chances were at a premium until the game burst back into life with time running out.
Then, with the game deep in injury time and everyone anticipating extra time, Millwall’s Conor Wilkinson scored his second of the game to send The Lion’s through to the fourth round.
John Hills was complimentary of his side despite the bitter loss and is already looking ahead to the next game on Saturday.
“It was big occasion for the lads, a few of them were nervous. They gave it everything and I’m proud of them,” he said.
“Had it gone to extra time I was quite happy and comfortable, and felt we would go on to win the game. We need to pick the lads up between now and Saturday because we’ve got a big game against rivals Preston to prepare for,” he added.
Blackpool: Hunt, Johnston Schuster (Fraser, 62), N’Daw, Staunton Turner, McGahey, Cross (c), Cameron (Lomax, 73), Shaw, Ready, Cole, Blackett (Charles, 58).
Subs not used: Rowley and Clayton.