Crystal Palace rode their luck before taking control of their FA Youth Cup 4th Round clash with Derby County last night, finishing comfortable 2-0 winners.
Derby dominated the opening half hour and could easily have been ahead, livewire Ryan Connolly hitting the top of the post with a volley after just five minutes and Palace captain Jerry Nnamani clearing off the line after Callum Ball’s challenge on Palace keeper Charlie Mann saw the ball drift goalwards.
But the Eagles went ahead against the run of play, Wilfried Zaha’s pace helping him reach a Nnamani flick beyond the defence and Zaha buried his shot into the bottom corner.
A minute later Derby thought they had equalised when Graham Kelly’s shot was palmed out by Mann for Ball to tap-in, only for the Rams striker to be given offside.
Five minutes later, Connolly’s right-wing corner drifted straight into the net only for referee Mr Robinson to deem Mann to have been fouled.
Palace had benefitted from huge good fortune but reacted superbly, taking control of the game and keeping possession far better as their 4-3-3 formation became far more dangerous than Derby’s 4-5-1.
Five minutes before half-time, striker Ibra Sekajja crossed from the right, clever striker Jack Randall stepped over it and midfielder Joe Goldsmith arrived to steer the ball into the net to make it 2-0.
Derby should have pulled one back before the half-time whistle only for Alex Wynter to make a superb block on the goal-line in a manic scramble. County introduced Aaron Cole at the break and went 4-4-2 but struggled to create many clear openings.
Palace had Wynter again to thank on 63 minutes when he juggled the ball off the line and over the bar after Mann had spilt a free kick and, from the resulting corner, Jeffrey Hendrick volleyed over the bar from six yards out.
The game opened up and become entertaining, with Palace’s 16 year old winger John Williams and electric frontman Zaha thrilling the crowd with some exhilarating skills.
Palace could have made it 3-0 only for Rams keeper James Severn to make a brilliant double save from Sekajja.
Crystal Palace will now meet the victors of the Hull City v Stoke City fixture to be played tonight.