NEWCASTLE United’s youngsters gave themselves an excellent chance of reaching the FA Youth Cup final – and a clash with Chelsea – after taking the game to Aston Villa last night.
Academy chief Joe Joyce was a satisfied man as Newcastle filed out of Villa Park after dominating this semi-final first leg.
The young Magpies kept the score level going into the second leg at St James’ Park next Friday, but could have left the second city with an even better scoreline.
The last time Newcastle were at Villa Park the first team were relegated. This time, the black and whites came out of the blocks first and stunned the 2,457 crowd into near silence on just nine minutes.
United centre-back and skipper Jeff Henderson clipped a long ball over the top early on, and Amble star Phil Airey controlled it brilliantly before poking it past home keeper Benjamin Siegrist at the second attempt.
Newcastle kept up their first half pressure and thought they had doubled the lead when Aussie Bradden Inman fired home from a tight angle when defender James Tavernier planted a right-wing cross just six minutes before the break – only for an offside flag to rule it out.
Villa – playing in front of Martin O’Neill on the big stage – struggled early on as Newcastle’s fluid 4-5-1 system left them chasing shadows.
With Airey the lone striker, the teenager fed well off wing men Samuel Ameobi and Swede Samuel Adjei in an impressive first-half showing.
Villa did have one glimpse of goal in the first period when danger man Kofi Poyser skipped through the middle and closed in on the Holte End goal.
However, 16-year-old stopper Jak Alnwick – brother of Spurs goalkeeper Ben – rushed out to smother it in superb style.
Newcastle, with boss Chris Hughton watching on from the stands, should have made it 2-0 just 20 seconds after the re-start.
Ameobi’s bustling run down the right allowed him to cross to the back post for Adjei, but the Swedish youngster scuffed his shot wide when he had time and space.
Villa pressured Newcastle as the game drifted to the hour mark and managed to haul themselves level.
Jason Lampking crossed from the left for Poyser to rise high and beat Alnwick to square things up.
United had chances late on and Airey almost grabbed a second from a free-kick, Siegrist palming it over.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Alnwick, Tavernier, Dummett, McDermott, Henderson, Folan, Sam Ameobi (Vuckic 65), Inman, Airey, Newton, Adjei. Subs (not used): Vuckic, McGorrigan, Nzuzi, D Taylor, Spear.
ASTON VILLA: Siegirst, Berry, Deeney, Devine, Williams, Blythe, Lampkin (Taylor 70), Carruthers (Nelson-Addy 75), Poyser (Cameron 85), Simmonds, Roberts. Subs (not used): C Taylor, Barratt, Nelson-Addy, Cameron, Clifton.
Referee: Rob Shoebridge.