THEIR journey in the FA Youth Cup may well have come to an end on Monday evening, but Sky Blues Under-18 coach Jason Fardon believes his young side can be proud of their achievements after taking Arsenal all the way to a penalty shoot-out.
A performance full of determination, passion and a real desire to cause a huge cup upset was witnessed by almost 2,000 fans at the Ricoh Arena.
Jack Hickman fired the hosts in front on 23 minutes before Tyrell Robinson equalised for Arsenal and that is how the scoreline stayed until extra-time.
The Gunners thought they had nicked the win when Donyell Malen netted in the second half of extra time but Bassala Sambou scored a dramatic late goal to force the game to penalties.
However the underdogs were beaten in cruellest of fashions after losing on sudden death penalties.
“We’re absolutely delighted with the lads,” said Farndon. They’ve given their all and represented this club with a pride and passion we should all be proud of.
“I said to Richard Stevens before penalties that we are already the winners tonight because to take Arsenal this far is a real achievement.
“They spend millions on their Academy and it was out there on the pitch and our lads matched them in most areas tonight and created plenty of problems for them.
“No-one gave us a chance but we proved that there is talent in the group. They worked really hard for each other tonight and can only be proud of their performance.”
Arsenal went into Monday’s fifth round fixture as firm favourties but it was the Sky Blues who took the lead when the impressive Hickman cut inside and hit the ball on his weaker left foot into the bottom corner of the net.
Robinson equalised for the visitors with a neat counter attacking goal and many people inside the Ricoh could be forgiven for thinking they would go on and win comfortably.
But Farndon’s youngsters had not read the script and more than matched their opponents for the entire evening.
Even when substitute Malen found the net shortly after half-time of extra time the Sky Blues refused to throw in the towel and deservedly scored a last-ditch equaliser through Sambou.
But there was to be no fairlytale ending as Arsenal won a dramatic penalty shoot-out 7-6 to break City hearts and deny them a spot in the quarter-final.
“It’s a horrible way for the lads to go out and we’ve got a few of the lads in there who are crying but it will make them mentally tougher in their careers as disappointment like this always happens in football,” Farndon added.
“You’ve got to be a certain type of person to take one and the lads who stepped up deserve great credit for doing so. All round, it’s been a fantastic night for the club and the Academy.”