Davis | FA Youth Cup thriller a 'game you’ll never forget'

Steve Davis described Wolves’ thrilling FA Youth Cup fourth round victory against Crystal Palace as ‘one of those games you’ll never forget’.

His under-18s fought until the final seconds of the clash at Selhurst Park, scoring a 92nd minute equaliser to take the game to extra-time, before turning the penalty shootout around when finding themselves 4-2 behind.

That fighting spirit was praised by Davis as the team have an anxious wait to discover who they will face in the last 16 of the competition having been drawn at home to either Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion, who go head-to-head on Friday afternoon.

On a memorable cup tie

“It was one of those games that you’ll never forget. The staff and the players would have really enjoyed the experience of being so near to getting knocked out twice, and then having the opportunity to win it at the end with the penalties.

“We were 20 seconds from being out in normal time and then we were within the penalty of going out again, but Palmi [Arinbjornsson] made the save and we got the opportunity to win it with our pen, so it was a crazy night.

“It was really enjoyable and the lads won’t forget that game quickly. It was a great experience to play on a Premier League pitch against a good team and come out on top in the end. It just shows the fight and resilience the lads have got.”

On fighting until the end

“We dominated most of the second-half, but especially the last 30 minutes of normal time. We changed to be a little more attack minded, going to a 4-3-3, but with the full-backs getting forward.

“I took a few risks, but I just wanted to get numbers in the final third to put them under more pressure and that pressure paid off. We had a chance before we scored with Josh [Esen], but the keeper made a really good save down to his left, and I did think at that time maybe that was our last opportunity.

“But we kept going, kept persevering and probing, and kept picking up loose balls, and we were positive in the final third at the end, which we weren’t in the first-half as we just couldn’t get going.

“I was just relieved and delighted at the same time when we nicked the equaliser because I felt the momentum was with us. All credit to the players because they kept going and kept trying and you can only applaud that. It’s a great strength to have in the squad.”

On practising penalties

“They were very good, but all I said to them prior to the shootout was, ‘Make your mind up. Don’t change your mind in the run-up and just be positive and stay calm.’

“It’s difficult to be calm in that moment, but the calmer you are, the better you are with the strike and the better you make contact with the ball, but they all stepped up and drilled it into the corners they’d chosen and there was no changing their minds, which sometimes can lead to a misplaced kick, putting it over or the keeper reading it.

“The penalties were excellent and we did practice them because you’ve got to practice for every possible eventuality, but what you can’t practice for is having played 120 minutes and then taking a penalty.

“We practiced them at the end of training, but it’s not quite the same as taking them at the end of a match which has gone to extra-time. It’s so much harder because one or two of those lads had suffered with cramp a little bit.

“But they were excellent and I can’t fault them. We know we can play better than we did, but these lads hadn’t played for a month, and you could see that in the early part of the game as we looked rusty, so it’s just good to get through that game as we did, and hopefully we’ll get a couple more before the next round.”

On facing Spurs or West Brom in the next round

“I don’t mind who we play, to be honest. I don’t think the players mind either, because they’re just happy to get through to the last 16 and have a chance at home. Hopefully we’ll get a few supporters down to come and watch and support the lads

“But whoever we face, it’s another great experience for them. They experience playing under pressure, which is what they need – playing in front of people, the noise of the crowd, playing in a stadium and the pressure alone that brings. It’s new for a lot of these players, particular the younger ones like Mason [Rees], who haven’t experienced this before.  

“But opposition-wise, I don’t think they’ll mind who they get. It’s good that it’s at home, and I’ll be happy to play either team. For me, it’s just nice to be in the last 16 and give ourselves a chance to get through to the last eight.”

On returning to league action on Saturday

“Looking at the bodies we have available, we have quite a few off with Covid, so numbers are going to be really restrictive and really low. We’re going to have to play the majority of the under-16s in that game, which will be brilliant for them, but a tough game for them at the same time.

“Forest are still in the Youth Cup, so they may play the youth team like they did the last time we played them when they went strong and we were very young, so it was a very tough game.

“I think it’ll be very similar to last time, but I’ll look at the squad today and see who’s available, because the under-23s have a game on Monday, so it’ll depend on who is involved with them as to who drops into the 18s to play in our fixture.

“We’ll have a better understanding of that today, but I do envisage us being quite young, but that’s not a problem, because we’re looking at next season, looking at the lads who are pre-scholars and another opportunity for the likes of Leo Shahar, who’s only 14, to play and get that experience, as it’s good to see players like him challenge themselves against under-18 opposition.”