ORIENT UNDER 18s were cruelly knocked out of the FA Youth Cup after an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat against Premier League Stoke City. Orient were magnificent throughout and twice led through Josh Uzun and then Scott Kashket before being pegged back with stoppage time levellers.
Despite the defeat, the O’s could take plenty of heart from their performance as the underdogs gave Stoke a scare and were the better side for the vast majority of the game before digging in during the latter stages of extra-time to earn a shoot-out.
Orient Academy Director Andy Edwards stuck with a tried and tested formula as he named the same starting eleven that had already overcome AFC Totton and Swindon Town as his Orient Under 18’s side looked to cause an upset against Premier League Stoke City at Nantwich Town.
It was a frantic opening 10 minutes as Orient looked to press from the front and make life uncomfortable for the home side. The O’s looked full of energy buy almost gifted City an opening goal with 11 minutes on the clock when Scott Kashket under hit a back pass that allowed Derice Richards to bear down on goal but he flashed his effort wide on the angle.
Just over a minute later the O’s almost got themselves in front when the powerful Montel Agyemang caused panic in the Stoke box from a free-kick and he brought the best out of Daniel Gyollai in the City goal with a low drive that the ‘keeper saved well with his feet.
Sinclaire Sandy continued to run the channels and provide and outlet for the O’s and was a constant thorn in the Potters’ side as Orient started to look the more dangerous side. Meanwhile the likes of Josh Uzun behind him worked tirelessly to hassle and harry the home side, forcing a number of turnovers in their own half.
To the neutral, it would have appeared that the boys in gold were the Premier League side as despite chances proving to be of a premium, Andy Edwards could only have been pleased with the way his lads were superior with and without the ball. Captain Charlie Grainger was a spectator for large periods of the half though demonstrated some immaculate distribution when called upon to release Sandy who despite lacking height, was crafty with his movement and use of his body to win more than his fair share.
The only real negatives for the O’s as they headed into the interval were that they hadn’t got themselves a deserved lead whilst Agyemang had also left the field to be replaced by Nick Brown with the former suffering an injury.
The second half began in the same vein as the first as Orient looked sharp out of the blocks and Jack Humphrey was unlucky to see a shot from distance drop just wide before Kashket blazed over shortly afterwards.
The Potters had struggled to retain possession in the first half but showed signs of improvement in the second as they looked to work it into wide areas and get balls into the O’s penalty area.
Sandy continued to work tirelessly and run at the Stoke back four and when he released Kashket just before the hour mark, the forward showed good feet before getting a shot away that Gyollai smothered well.
The chance gave the O’s a boost and a minute after Humphrey saw an excellent cross flash across the face of goal, Brown combined with Freddy Moncur before unleashing a drive that was inches away from breaking the deadlock.
Orient looked well-drilled at the back with Alex Finney, fresh from a spell on the bench for the first team, marshalling the troops, with Grainger behind him looking calm and collected whenever called into action.
The O’s custodian however looked to be struggling to reach and effort from distance from Potters captain Eddy Lecygne on 67 minutes that had Grainger scrambling across his goal before bending just wide.
With five minutes to go, Orient got exactly what they deserved though when the electric Sandy was brought down in the box. After a lengthy delay, Uzun stepped up and buried the penalty which sparked wild celebrations.
Stoke piled on the pressure and Orient dug-in and it looked they’d hold out before the referee evened things up when substitute Charles Weston-Hayles was brought down in the box as the game moved into stoppage time. Lecygne stepped up and sent Grainger the wrong way to send the tie into extra-time.
In the first minute of extra-time Orient got themselves back in front as the boys in gold worked it wonderfully into the left channel for Kashket who provided a wonderful chipped finish to lob it over the advancing goalkeeper.
Orient were forced onto the back foot as the goal sparked Stoke into life but they remained resilient until the last kick of the first period of extra-time when a long ball by Derice Richards found Weston-Hayles through the middle who kept his calm to finish with a low drive past Grainger.
Stoke upped it a gear from the restart as substitute and former Orient player Johnville Renee-Pringle brought the best out of Grainger as the ‘keeper dived full length to push his goal-bound header away from the top corner before Stoke penalty appeals fell on deaf ears when Humphrey appeared to have upended a Stoke forward in the box.
The skipper Grainger twice more dived at the feet of Potters’ forwards before Richards thundered an effort off the O’s crossbar from distance.
Finney continued to throw himself in front of anything that moved whilst his partner Nikolaou somehow blocked a goal-bound effort off the line as Orient held on for penalties.
It wasn’t to be however for the plucky O’s who received a standing ovation as they left the field following a 5-4 defeat on penalties.
ORIENT: Grainger (C), Ling, Humphrey, Okimeji, Finney, Nikolaou, Moncur (Oladipo 90), Agyemang (Brown 42), Sandy, Kashket (Owusu 104), Uzun
SUBS: Adams, Mensah
GOALS: Uzun pen 84, Kashket 91
BOOKINGS: Nikolaou (117)
STOKE: Gyollai, Banks, Strong, Lecygne (Renee-Pringle 94), Sanders, Edwards, Shenton (Weston-Hayles 87), Monlouis, Coban (Shields 74), Richards, Taylor
SUBS: Hulme, Kurasik, Renee-Pringle,
GOALS: Lecygne pen 90, Weston-Hayles 105
BOOKINGS: Edwards (81) Lecygne (87)