Leverstock Green U18 booked a plum tie at Southend United as they reached the first round proper of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in the club’s history with a 2-1 win over AFC Hornchurch in last night’s third qualifying round tie.
Visitors Hornchurch could have gone ahead in the opening minutes of the game, but crucially Mark Berg saved Owen Edobor’s shot from close range.
This was costly for them, as Levy’s response was to take the lead though a lovely header by the impressive Luke Warner-Eley.
Hornchurch had failed to clear their lines after some good play by Alfie Boswell and Charlie Frost, and Warner-Eley was there to punish them.
However, this was the best squad Levy have faced so far this season, and the response was swift.
Jamie Cartney-Chand headed over the bar, before Green were handed a huge let off when he suffered a big miss after getting on the end of a lovely free-kick by Paulius Ditkevicius, who was arguably the most impressive of the Hornchurch players.
An equaliser looked very likely, though, and the visitors were good value for it.
Green looked to have survived the danger when Berg made a great save to deny Edobor in the 21st minute, but Cartell Emmanuel was able to score from the resulting corner to bring the scores level.
It was at this moment that Leverstock Green showed their true strength of character.
The way their opponents were playing, other squads might have let their heads drop, and gone on to lose the game, but Green were in no mood to let that happen.
Instead, they went on the attack again. Another bit of great play, this time by Warner-Eley and Casey Linsell, resulted in a throw-in.
The ball was hurled into the penalty area by Jaiden Shelley-McPherson, and again Hornchurch failed to clear their lines, and the ball fell to Warner-Eley, who fired his team into the lead for the second time.
Warner-Eley even had the chance to complete his hat-trick in the first half, but his long range effort was saved by Callum Chafer in the 31st minute.
The second half began in controversial style when Fahad Nazor pulled down Warner-Eley on the edge of the penalty area.
The free-kick was cleared on that occasion, but a goal seemed to be coming. Green looked the more likely at that point, as Warner-Eley was still terrorising the defence, pulling them this way and that.
By the hour mark it was turning into a very even second half, with the teams cancelling each other out.
However, as the game wore on, the chances started coming again. Green had a huge opportunity to wrap things up in the 85th minute when substitute Alix Gilbert rounded the keeper, but his shot was cleared off the line by Nazor.
Then Warner-Eley tried another long range shot, but to no avail.
As the game went into stoppage time, Levy had a heart stopping moment when Cartney-Chand was in on goal for Hornchurch, but another big miss by the midfielder saw that their lead remained intact.
You could have cut the tension with a knife, but finally the ref blew his whistle for full time to jubilant scenes from the Leverstock Green faithful. After all, this had all the ingredients for fantastic evening of football: a great match, a brilliant performance, an opponent who was very magnanimous and sporting in defeat, and the chance to play a football league club in the next round.