Young Robins beat Wombles after extra time in FA Youth Cup.Cheltenham Town will host Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Youth Cup third round after they battled both AFC Wimbledon and the weather to win 5-2 after extra time at the Fans' Stadium in South London.
On a night of strong winds and heavy rain the young Robins had to come from behind twice against a Wimbledon side who had captain Dan Pearse sent off for a foul on Joe Hanks after 55 minutes.
The home side took the lead with a fine goal from Yousef Bamba but Spencer Hamilton bundled in an equaliser from a corner three minutes later.
Bamba restored the advantage for the Dons but Zack Kotwica made it 2-2 with two minutes left. Kotwica again then Hanks added further goals in extra time before Kotwica completed his hat-trick to set up the Spurs tie.
Both teams adopted the 4-2-3-1 formation so in vogue at the moment, Cheltenham's deep lying midfield comprising Adam Powell and Joe Hanks, who has already made a first team debut. Zack Kotwica, Harry Williams and James Bowen formed an attacking midfield three behind lone striker Bobbie Dale.
Cheltenham created a couple of early chances with defender Spencer Hamilton heading straight at the goalkeeper and Williams blasting a couple of long-shots against the legs of defenders but it was the home side who nearly took the lead in the 10th minute. Midfielder Dan Pearse floated in a wind-assisted free-kick that was dipping under the crossbar until Robins goalkeeper Dale Reaney stretched to push the ball over.
Kotwica then saw a shot pushed aside by Wimbledon goalkeeper Jack Greenaway but both sides were struggling to settle with a strong wind blowing down the ground.
Wimbledon grabbed the initiative with 20 minutes played when wide player Yousef Bamba collected the ball near the half way line and set off on a determined solo run that took him deep inside the Cheltenham penalty area and he beat Reaney with a low shot. It was a good piece of skill from the Wimbledon player but Cheltenham youth coach Russell Milton would not have been pleased with the way the defence parted before him.
Only three minutes elapsed before Cheltenham hauled themselves level when a corner from the right hand side dropped inside the six yard box. Hamilton stabbed at it and although the shot was cleared by a defender, the assistant referee signalled that the ball had already crossed the line.
Wimbledon were forced to change their goalkeeper on 34 minutes when Greenaway limped off to be replaced by Billy Bishop. The change had little effect on the pattern of the game which remained fairly even, although Cheltenham created a couple of decent chances just before the break with Bobbie Dale heading both of them wide from left wing crosses.
The second half kicked off with the wind having picked up even more and although Cheltenham had the wind gusting from behind them, the difficulty arose in trying to keep the ball on the pitch when going forward.
The game exploded into controversy on 55 minutes when Wimbledon captain Dan Pearse caught Joe Hanks with a late tackle and referee Christopher O'Donnell reached for a straight red card. The general opinion among the crowd was that it was a harsh decision but there was an ugly tangle of legs that could have resulted in an injury to either player.
Adam Powell and Joe Hanks both sent long range efforts wide of the target for Cheltenham but Reaney had to be alive to save a shot from the dangerous Bamba with his feet as torrential rain began to fall over the Fans' Stadium.
Anxiousness began to creep into the play of both teams with more and more emphasis on the long ball rather than trying to keep possession and combat the conditions.
Cheltenham in particular were guilty of trying to get the ball forward too quickly rather than making their man advantage count. They were caught out again nine minutes from time when Bamba raced onto a through ball and kept his composure, controlling the ball before lifting a shot over the advancing Reaney.
Kotwica ran onto a great pass from Hanks shortly afterwards but Bishop was equal to his low driven shot. Russell Milton made two substitutions in order to salvage the game and one of the replacements, Owen Donaghue, supplied an inviting cross for Kotwica to sweep in an equaliser with only two minutes left.
Suddenly Cheltenham Town were swarming forward in numbers and Ed Williams, another substitute, saw a shot well saved by Bishop before the referee blew to send the tie into extra-time.
The extra half hour had barely started when Cheltenham took the lead for the first time in the match. The same combination that brought the first goal worked their magic again with Donaghue providing a pinpoint cross from the right and Kotwica stealing in at the far post to head home.
Six minutes later Cheltenham had a two goal advantage when Hanks received the ball in space on the edge of the box and took a touch before driving a low shot wide of Bishop.
Still the home side refused to give in, however, and midfielder Chace Jacquart was presented with a great chance to pull a goal back but his shot was blocked by the legs of Reaney.
There were some tired legs in the second half of extra time and Wimbledon went down to nine men following an injury to striker George Oakley. Kotwica was able to take advantage four minutes from the end with a strong run down the left before cutting inside and shooting into the roof of the net.
AFC Wimbledon Youth (4-2-3-1): Greenaway (Bishop 34); Hayden (Basker 94), Roberts, Daley, Cunnington; Jacquart, Pearse; Baffour (Tarbie 60), Fayers, Bamba; Oakley.
Other subs: Craig, Vleitnick
Cheltenham Town Youth (4-2-3-1): Reaney; Thomas (Hitchman 106), Gonzalo, Hamilton, Marshall; Hanks, Powell (E.Williams 85); Kotwica, H.Williams, Bowen (Donaghue 84); Dale.
Other subs: Rivers (Gk), Morana
Referee: Christopher O'Donnell