Football League Youth Alliance Cup Final
Wycombe Wanderers 0 Darlington 0 – Wycombe won 4 – 2 on pens
Wycombe Wanderers completed a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over Darlington last night to win the Football League Youth Alliance Cup. After a goalless draw in front of a large crowd at Adams Park, Wycombe dispatched all four of their penalties and saw keeper Matt Ingram save twice – from Adam Hutchinson and, decisively, Scott Harrison – to hand the Chairboys the win. Football League Chairman Greg Clarke handed over the trophy to a jubilant Wycombe skipper Anthony Stewart, who had been solid all night at the heart of the Blues’ defence, but it was tough luck on his Darlo counterpart, Hutchinson, who had been magnificent in a major defensive performance by the visitors from the north-east.
The first half was cagey and tactical, with Wycombe emerging to dominate possession and midfield with interweaving movement and advancing full-backs, but created very little in front of Jordan Nixon’s goal. But the Darlington keeper had to be at his best in a gripping last half hour as Wycombe took total control of the game. Victory seemed certain for most of the 90 minutes: it was only in injury time that Darlington threatened to grab victory.
The major goal threats for Wycombe came only after 67 minutes when electric winger Nathan Olukanmi raced into the box from wide on the right only to lift the ball over Nixon and the crossbar. A few seconds later, a brilliant 40 yard lofted pass from tireless striker Lee Weemes sent Olukanmi in on goal only for Nixon to rush out and fumble the ball away. Four minutes later came another great Wycombe chance: a winding run by Olukanmi saw the recently-released Apprentice close in on goal, pull the ball back for Ryan Ware to shoot straight into the prone Weemes, lying on the ground in front of Nixon! Hutchinson also made a fabulous sliding tackle on Weemes before he could finish a fine run with a shot at goal.
Richard Dobson’s Wycombe side started to play longer passes rather than intricate close passing and it brought two more chances before the final whistle. On 89 minutes, victory. Kadeem Harris, a problem for Darlo all night, sent a delicate through pass to Weemes but Nixon made a tremendous save at his feet. Seconds later, Weemes charged down Nixon’s clearance from Hutchinson’s short backpass only to see the ball loop agonizingly over the bar.
Darlo finally pressed forward in a prolonged injury time but could not convert a corner and the final went straight to penalties. It was a fitting send off for Weemes, Ware, Olukanmi, David Styles, Miles Smith, and Archie Lloyd, all of whom were playing their final games for Wycombe Wanderers.