Port Vale U18s v Everton U18s
Everton Under-18s booked their place in the FA Youth Cup fifth round with a dramatic 3-2 victory at Port Vale on Thursday evening.
George Waring, Matthew Pennington and Chris Long provided the goals in an end-to-end contest that had to be decided in extra time.
It was a long overdue tie - the back story to the game being that this appeared to be a fixture destined never to be played.
Originally scheduled for the second week in January, the game was postponed three times as a result of recent snow and foul weather.
Indeed, the eventual date was to occur two days prior to the rest of the teams in the competition playing their fifth round ties.
And it was to be a trip to face Arsenal on offer to the victors at Vale Park.
Everton made hard work of getting there, however, and required an 89th-minute leveller to take the action into extra time.
For all their possession and effort to create chances in the first half, the Blues were almost made to pay for not being more ruthless in front of goal.
Of the few opportunities that were produced, the best of the half fell Matthew Kennedy's way. Effective work by Chris Long on the right provided a perfect pass across the face of goal that the young Scot was racing onto.
It took a superb reflex stop, but somehow Ryan Boot was able to thwart the winger from a matter of yards.
Pennington, although typically deployed at centre-half for the Under-21s, showcased his attacking qualities with a masterclass right-back performance in the first period.
Skipping forward at every opportunity, the Blues youngster caught his marker flat-footed time after time and drove past chains of defenders at will.
He did so to great effect on 27 minutes, beating at least three men en route to the byline. His cutback found striker Chris Long but the gathered Vale bodies in the box prevented his low strike from finding the net.
With the first half ending goalless, a goal was required in the second if a victor was to emerge in normal time.
And almost immediately, Long tried to put the Blues ahead.
Beating the charging Boot to the ball, the forward tried to guide an effort beyond and goalward from the edge of the box. Instead he found the side-netting.
A long break in play was to follow as Vale's Tom Morris required treatment following a collision in the box.
The practice balls came out to keep the other players warm - but it was to be the hosts that resumed play the brighter.
With Russell Griffiths only tested from distance beforehand, it took a close-range finish to beat him on 65 minutes.
The build-up appeared controversial however, with a Vale man mis-kicking the ball against his own hand inside the box. The ball bobbled loose following a block and Marland was at the far-post to tuck home.
The Blues struggled to regain their rhythm of the first half, with Kennedy missing the target with three of the visitors' best efforts.
And it wasn't until one minute from the end of normal time that the Blues did see the net bulge.
The tireless Kennedy, playing his second game in 24 hours following Scotland Under-19 duty, worked his trickery on the left and crossed deep to the far post.
George Waring was poised waiting and his downward header nestled neatly in the bottom corner.
A fierce 10 minutes of injury time followed with both sides committing men forward in a tennis rally of counter-attacks.
Extra time beckoned and substitute Macauley Davies only required four of those 30 minutes to put the hosts back ahead.
His drilled finish had the home crowd on their feet, but with just minutes left of the first 15, another Pennington run paid dividends.
Racing forward once more, the defender found himself away from his marker and able to latch onto Harry Charsley's neat pass to score from six yards.
And Long put the Blues ahead for the first time in the game with just five minutes of extra time left.
The forward was on the end of a rapid Blues attack, with Waring playing him into space with only Boot to beat.
The goal sparked celebrations, ones which were repeated at the final whistle.
Finally, after two months, three failed fixtures and 120 minutes of football, Everton were through to the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup.