Portsmouth bow out of FA Youth Cup after seven goal thriller at Cheltenham

A Dan Gifford hat-trick wasn’t enough as Pompey’s academy side crashed out of the FA Youth Cup following a seven-goal thriller against Cheltenham.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 10:41 pm

The talented Blues midfielder provided Liam Daish’s side with hope as two of his efforts cancelled out a 2-0 Robins lead.

However, when he scored his third in extra-time – as the game finished 2-2 after 90 minutes – it proved too little, too late as the hosts had once again restored their two-goal cushion and proved out of reach following a pulsating second-round encounter.

The Fratton Park youngsters burst out of the blocks at Evesham and dominated the early exchanges as Harvey Hughes proved a real thorn in the side for Cheltenham down the left.

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But it was the home side who took the lead before the break, when Brennan Denness-Barrett converted following a penalty shout for the Robins which was turned down by the referee.

Four minutes into the second half the attacking midfielder doubled the hosts’ advantage to give the Blues a huge mountain to climb.

And the Pompey youngsters nearly themselves slipping further behind on the now tricky terrain when Felix Miles put the ball in the back of the net – only for it to be ruled out for offside.

Sixteen-year-old keeper Toby Steward then denied Denness-Barrett a hat-trick just after the hour mark as the hosts grew in confidence.

Dan Gifford grabbed a hat-trick in cup defeat. Picture Stuart Martin

But with just over 20 minutes left to play, Gifford provided an unlikely source of hope for the Blues after he produced a neat finish following an Alfie Bridgeman cross.

Regaining control of the game, Gifford was then brought down inside the Cheltenham box by Robins keeper Ben Hoy.

A penalty was rewarded – and the 17-year-old kept his cool to score and send the game into an extra 30 minutes.

With the wind in their sails, there was an expectation on the young Pompey side to go on and finish the job.

Yet with Steward called upon to make some impressive saves in extra-time, Cheltenham were far from done.

Instead, it was they who now had the bit between their teeth, and an outstanding volley from Connor Jakeways and a calm tap-in from Miles restored their two-goal lead.

Gifford managed to grab his hat-trick following a Hughes free-kick.

Yet it wasn’t enough to kick-start another comeback as Daish’s young guns accepted their fate as the final whistle blew on a thrilling encounter, with Cheltenham running out 4-3 winners.

Pompey starting XI: Toby Steward, David Setters, Harvey Hughes, Harry Jewitt-White, Izzy Kaba (c), Joshua Dockerill, Charlie Williams, Elliot Simpson, Dan Gifford, Adam Payce, Alfie Bridgman. Subs: Mitch Aston, Archie Bennet, Harvey Laidlaw, Kevin Bosaka, Kaden Traynor, Jack Fox, Maxwell Hurst.