Ipswich Town to host Liverpool in FA Youth Cup semi-final after seeing off Sheffield United in extra-time at Portman Road
A monumental effort by Adem Atay's side at Portman Road this evening saw Ipswich Town book a glamour televised FA Youth Cup semi-final tie against Liverpool.
The young Blues, who had initially taken the lead through Nico Valentine, drew a frantic second half with Sheffield United 2-2 with Elkan Baggott's last-gasp header sending the quarter-final tie to extra-time.
The Blades were reduced to 10 men for the final 19 minutes when Hassan Ayari badly mistimed a robust challenge and Town's heavy late pressure eventually told when Harvey Cullinan sent Cameron Humphreys' low cross into his own net in the 118th minute.
But there was still time for a hearts in mouth moment for the hosts as they watched Andre Brookes' looping effort hit the crossbar.
There was a 10 minute delay to the advertised 5pm kick-off due to traffic holding up the visiting team's arrival from their hotel. But when the game did start there was less than two minutes played before a 16 minute break while Town goalkeeper Antoni Bort was stretchered off with what appeared a facial injury following a collision at a corner.
It was the hosts who went closest to opening the scoring in a goalless first half. Wing-back Edwin Agbaje sent a side-footed effort wide after he was found free in the area in the 26th minute while Albie Armin lifted the ball onto the crossbar in the sixth minute of stoppage-time.
Up the other end Cameron Stewart produced a great block to deny Will Osula after substitute goalkeeper Lewis Ridd had miscued his kick.
It was an entertaining start to the second half with the Blues finding the breakthrough inside 55 seconds. Bury St Edmunds' Liam Gibbs burst down the left before picking out Valentine just outside the six-yard box who steered in under goalkeeper Callum Hiddleston.
Stewart passed up a good chance to make it 2-0 when heading over when found unmarked before a Sheffiled United penalty appeal on Osula was waved away by the referee at the other end.
But the visitors were back on level terms in the 57th minute with Oluwafemi Seriki's cross to the near post coolly finished by the Osula.
Town came close to a quick reply but Hiddleston's save denied Valentine a second goal after Gerard Buabo's header came back off the crossbar from Humphrey's cross.
With 20 minutes to go the stretcher was required for the second time in the match. Gibbs collided with Blades' defender Beau Anderson, sending him into the advertising hoardings, which saw another long stoppage before he was able to be driven off.
United caught Town cold after the restart to take an 83rd minute lead via Brookes' finish through a crowded box after Baggott was unable to sufficiently clear Ayari's cross.
But to Ipswich's credit they did not let their heads drop. And after Hiddleston saved substitute Tawanda Chirewa's header at the near post there was just four minutes of 14 added minutes left when Baggott's powerful header from Humphrey's excellent corner delivery hit the back of the net.
The bouyed Blues looked the more likely to score in the first period of extra-time with Humphreys' low angled cross-cum-shot forcing the Blades keeper into a diving save.
A red card followed for Ayari for a wild challenge on half-way on Humphreys with the ball nowhere near.
But despite their numerical disadvantage Derek Geary's side had a big chance to re-take the lead early in the second period of extra-time but Cullinan sliced his volley well wide from a great position.
It was end to end at this point with tired legs telling and Humphreys' low angled shot was pushed away by Hiddleston.
Town's pressure on the Blades goalmouth increased with Albie Armin's header and Gibbs' low effort from the edge of the area both going agonizingly wide.
But the big breakthrough came with two minutes remaining when Humphreys' excellent work from the right byline saw him fire in a low cross that the desperate lunge of Cullinan could only turn into the roof of his own net.
Home substitute Ola Bello was guilty of not wrapping things up before their was a last-gasp scare as a scuffed Brookes effort clipped the top of the crossbar before Town survived the last corner.
Neither side could have given anymore to the cause in an epic tussle but it is Atay's Suffolk side who will contest a place in the final with Liverpool – who beat Arsenal 3-1 in their quarter-final tie this evening. The match will be at Portman Road and is set to take place behind closed doors again, to be completed before May 15.
The other semi-final will be contested by Aston Villa and West Bromich Albion, the winner of which would have home advantage in the final.
Ahead of tonight it was already the furthest a Town side had gone in the competition since they won it a third time in 2005. The other victories for the Blues came in 1973 and 1975.
Ipswich: Bort (Ridd 17'), Agbaje, Alexander, Stewart, Baggott, Armin, Valentine (Nwabueze 111'), Cutbush (Chirewa 72'), Buabo (Bello 84'), Gibbs, Humphreys. Unused subs: Bradshaw, Osbourne, Manly.
Sheffield: Hiddleston, Seriki, Anderson (Angell 81'), Arblaster (c) (Smith 102'), Cullinan, L Williams, Ayari, Maguire, Jebbison (Hackford 90+4), Osula Marsh 111'), Brookes. Unused subs: Hampshaw, T Williams, Lankshear.
Suffolk News Man of the Match: Cameron Stewart. Threw his body on the line for his team and looked calm and collected on the ball.