Matty Dixon strikes as Hull City young guns beat Northampton in FA Youth Cup
HULL City produced a stirring performance full of character to clinch their place in the last 16 of the FA Youth Cup with a 1-0 victory at Northampton Town last night.
Influential captain Matty Dixon was the match-winner as his early strike proved decisive in a tight fourth round tie at the Sixfields Stadium.
The heroics of goalkeeper Joe Cracknell preserved the Tigers’ slender advantage and ensured a home tie with Leicester City will be the significant reward in the fifth round.
Billy Russell’s promising youngsters have shown themselves to be capable of more this season but having twice fallen at the third round hurdle in 2010-11 and 2011-12, City’s progress in the showpiece competition will have been celebrated all the way back to East Yorkshire.
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A triumph for substance over style, perhaps, but the Tigers’ FA Youth Cup journey never looked like ending in Northamptonshire.
If City were ring-rusty after just one game in six wintry weeks, they showed few signs of it when enjoying the perfect start thanks to the persistence of Dixon.
A backpass to goalkeeper Dean Snedker was ill-advised and the Tigers’ lurking captain was alert to block the subsequent attempts to clear.
Dixon then kept his cool when latching on to the loose ball and stroked home from the left edge of the penalty area.
Russell’s men had needed just six minutes to take the lead but holding on to their early advantage owed much to their defensive steel.
A central pairing of Ben Clappison and Max Clark dealt admirably with the physical threat of Northampton’s front two David Moyo and Ivan Toney.
On the one occasion where Moyo burst clear of the close attention Cracknell, who was an unused substitute three times in the senior FA Cup this month, was strong to save with his legs before the covering Tom Davie hooked clear.
Cracknell was again called into action to tip Claudio Dias’ effort around the post but City gradually quelled the threat of Northampton.
Although a badly-scarred pitch restricted the Tigers’ passing style, the quality of Dixon and Eoghan McCawl probed at Northampton’s defence.
A disciplined first-half performance will have pleased Russell and the infectious work-rate spilled encouragingly into the second period.
Sam Topliss, in particular, typified City’s energy.
The right-back was a constant threat pushing on from deep but it was the equally irrepressible Danny Chambers who came close to doubling the lead. A well-struck shot from the edge of the box fizzed narrowly wide.
Northampton’s hope was not lost, though, and inside a minute they twice came close to an equaliser.
A wonderful save from Cracknell kept out the long-range drive of George Craddock, while from the resultant corner Toney fired narrowly over from inside the box.
Cracknell’s excellence stayed true with another save to keep out Toney as Northampton cranked up the pressure inside the final third.
A goalmouth scramble had pulses racing but Clappison’s block to deny Toney a clear shot on goal dismissed any suggestion of flagging legs.
City had a golden opportunity to win it in the closing stages when Chambers burst clear of the sprung offside trap, but his dragged finish could not put Northampton to the sword once and for all.
The miss eventually counted for nothing.
The referee’s final whistle followed soon after and as Northampton’s gallant young side fell to their knees, City’s moment had arrived.