FA Youth Cup: Robins 1, Birmingham City 2
Cheltenham Town pushed Birmingham City all the way in tonight's FA Youth Cup third round tie at the Abbey Business Stadium but a wonderful goal by substitute Kyle McFarlane, nine minutes from time, ended any hope of a fourth round appearance for only the second time in the club's history.
Russell Milton's side made a positive start to the match, Harry Williams breaking the deadlock after only seven minutes with his fifth goal in the competition this term but the Blues pulled level one minute before the break through Nathaniel Kelly.
There may have been an element of good fortune about the equaliser but it was a moment of real quality that confirmed the Championship club's meeting with Everton at Goodison Park in the fourth round.
Williams thought he'd given the home side the lead within a minute of the kick-off, but the prolific striker had strayed offside before beating goalkeeper Callum Preston with a glancing header.
However he opened the scoring in the seventh minute, heading home from close range after seeing the penalty kick he had original earned, saved.
Harvey Rivers, the young Cheltenham Town goalkeeper, performed well on the night and was called into his first stop to prevent Demarai Gray pulling his side level with a quarter of an hour played.
The Birmingham City winger was unlucky not to have scored a moment later when his 20-yard free-kick was deflected a foot past the left upright, wrong-footing Rivers.
Zack Kotwica went close mid-way through the first half, racing on to Bobbie Dale's flick-on before letting fly from 20 yards but Preston saved well to his left.
The winger also forced a decent save ten minutes from the break with a left footer from 25 yards.
At the other end, Gray drew a fine save from Rivers after skipping past Callum McFarlane down the right while Koby Arthur should have done better with his header as half-time approached.
Birmingham though were level in rather fortunate circumstances a minute from the interval, Kelly diverting Bobby Moseley's original shot past Rivers who was rooted to the spot.
Bobbie Dale wriggled through for the last chance of the half, but poked wide after nipping in between two defenders.
The Blues dominated the second half, creating a host of chances to build a meaningful lead but they were wasteful in front of goal.
Birmingham's wingers provided the Championship outfit with their main outlet on the night and Gray registered the first chance after the restart from a tight angle, although Rivers was equal to it.
Then George McGee burst down the right, beating James Bowen who had been drafted in at left back to deal with the threat of Viv Soloman-Otabor but his final effort was easily gathered by Rivers.
Birmingham enjoyed a lot of success down the Cheltenham left and Gray, Arthur, Soloman-Otabor and Dacres-Cogley went on to create chances from that side to test Rivers, but the Cheltenham number one was equal to all of them.
But there was nothing he could have done about the winner nine minutes from time, a fabulous goal by substitute McFarlane from the corner of the box which sailed past Rivers in to the top right-hand corner.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Rivers; Keightley, Hamilton (c), McFarlane, D Reynolds; Kotwica, Powell, Daly (Goodwin 68), Bowen (Lawrence 68); Williams, Dale. Subs not used: H Reynolds (Gk), Craddock, Whitehead.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Preston; Dacres-Cogley, Webb, Kelly, Moseley; Gray (Cooper 89), Brown, Truslove, Solomon-Otabor; McGee (McFarlane 71), Arthur. Subs not used: Harding, Trueman (Gk), McDonald.
REFEREE: M Russell