City take advantage into second legCITY’s under-18s ran out 1-0 winners at the City Ground to give Neil Adams' side a narrow advantage heading into the second-leg at Carrow Road.
It was Reece Hall-Johnson’s late strike that did it, finishing a magnificent deep cross in from Cameron Norman at the far post with Forest ‘keeper Jordan Smith rooted to the spot. Despite some replays suggesting the ball may have hit his hand before hitting the back of the net, City were ahead.
It means the Canaries take a narrow lead into the semi-final second-leg at Carrow Road next Tuesday, (7.45pm kick-off) but with away goals not a factor in the FA Youth Cup, the tie remains evenly balanced.
On the result the under-18s boss said: “I think we deserved it although I wasn’t especially pleased with the performance. At Everton last Friday I think we had a bit more about us and the occasion perhaps got to us a bit tonight, however I’m pleased to get the win, we’re ahead and in a good position.
“I’d probably say it was handball looking at the replays, although it really didn’t occur to me at the time. Whether it was going in anyway, I’m not so sure.
“We’d competed well all game and restricted Forest to few chances, but it was obviously great to get the goal. It is still really tight here though, we’ve got a lead but I’m sure Forest will come to Carrow Road and go at us a little bit more chasing the goal.”
Following the Canaries stunning 4-2 quarter-final win over Everton last Friday at Goodison Park, Adams elected to stick with the same eleven that fared so well that night.
And the early stages saw the City youngsters start in much the same vein, with the Murphy brothers central to the attack from the off. Early runs from Jacob almost put in Everton hat-trick hero Carlton Morris for an early strike before Josh looked to pounce on a weak Lawrence Gorman backpass only to see his chip denied by Forest stopper Jordan Smith.
Despite lots of endeavour from the home side it was the Canaries that looked the more ominous going forward, this time as full-back Ben Wyatt pushed forward from the left exchanging a neat one-two with Carlton Morris before snatching his shot wide.
But it was Forest who were the first to truly test the goalless scoreline as forward Morgan Ferrier was first to the loose ball from a free-kick, turning inside the City defence before rattling the crossbar with a thunderous effort.
With City boss Chris Hughton and Captain Grant Holt in attendance at the City Ground, the Canaries were keen to impress.
And with five minutes of the first-half remaining, lone striker Carlton Morris showed good industrious play to beat Forest full-back Michael Hollingsworth before his excellent cross across the six-yard box went unfinished. He was soon handed another opportunity as ‘keeper Smith blazed a goal-kick to the strikers feet, only a good recovery from Gorman and Kieran Fenton denied him.
Half-time: Nottingham Forest 0-0 Norwich City
With no changes for either side the second half started in much the same vein, with the Canaries slightly the brighter going forward. Josh Murphy and Jacob Murphy continued to be the Canaries main outlet, with Jacob coming close on 51 minutes as he volleyed a Carlton Morris chest down wide.
With little in the way of clear cut chance both sides took the chance to make a change, Rod Young replacing Cameron King for City with Josh Thomas replacing Jorge Grant for Forest.
And it was through substitute Rod Young that City saw their clearest of openings as yet, a neat one-two with Jacob Murphy saw the City winger through only to be denied at the near post as the chance on goal became ever tighter.
It was City’s pace and determination to run at the defence that was proving to be their best outlet of attack and Reece Hall-Johnson was next to test the Forest backline, beating three players before stabbing his effort just wide of goal.
Forest were struggling to make much headway in the final third and replaced tricky winger Wilfried Gnahore on 75 minutes with Jordan Palmer-Samuels.
But it was City who continued to threaten and did so once again from a corner with ten minutes to go, Carlton Morris just unable to turn home an excellent corner in from the left, flicked on by McGeehan.
And with the game set to go to Carrow Road well and truly in the balance it was the Canaries who broke the deadlock with just two minutes of normal time remaining of this first-leg tie as Reece Hall-Johnson converted an excellent cross from the right from Cameron Norman.
Just moments later City were clean through once again as Rod Young raced clear of the defence and looked set to make the tie more comfortable for the Canaries, only to see a previous foul given by Referee Geoff Eltringham to stop the attack in its tracks.
Nonetheless, Hall-Johnson’s late goal gives the Canaries the advantage and a small lead heading to Carrow Road next Tuesday night.
Full-Time: Nottingham Forest 0-1 Norwich City
Nottingham Forest Under-18s: Smith, Hollingsworth, Kamaneno, Blake, Gorman, Fenton, Gnahore (Palmer – Samuels 75), Grant (Thomas 57), Otim, Ferrier, Wallace. Subs not used: Ackroyd, Durrant, Sebastiao.
Norwich City Under-18s: Britt, Norman, Wyatt (Barker 90), McGeehan, McFadden, Toffolo, Jacob Murphy, Hall-Johnson, Morris, King (Young 55), Josh Murphy. Subs not used: Lokko, Reading, Randall.
Goal: Hall-Johnson, 88
Referee: Geoff Eltringham