Connor treble secures victory

PRODIGUOUS talent Connor Wickham hit a hat-trick to help overcome a plucky Palace side in a pulsating cup tie.

Derek Davis

FA Youth Cup fourth round

Ipswich Town 4 Crystal Palace 2 AET

(1-1 at 90 minutes)

By Derek Davis

PRODIGUOUS talent Connor Wickham hit a hat-trick to help overcome a plucky Palace side in a pulsating cup tie.

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Wickham opened the scoring in the first half but Michael Abnett equalised to send the game into extra time, with the young Town star striking again.

Wickham struck twice more before Reggie Lambe completed the hard-fought victory in an entertaining game that was a credit to both teams.

Watched by former Blues star and now Palace striker Alan Lee, who travelled the short distance from his home on the Essex/Suffolk border, Town started the brighter in a lively first half with both teams playing at a decent tempo and looking to be positive.

Murray had a claim for a penalty when was brought down by Nathaniel Clyne, who had played for Palace's first team 4-1 defeat on Saturday, but the referee was not interested.

The attacking duo is a potent partnership, typical big man, little man, only a youthful version. Although Murray leads the Academy scoring charts with nine, Wickham has caught the eye.

The 15-year-old from Colchester, who was on the seven man bench for the first team's third round win over Chesterfield and hoping to repeat the experience at Chelsea, had a couple of early half chances.

He hit a 25 yard shot over the bar and when a Billy Clark corner landed at Wickham's feet he didn't catch it cleanly and keeper saved with feet.

Thorp also took another header with ease and made a terrific save to deny Bermudan Lambe but Clark lashed the rebound into the side netting.

The keeper had no chance though five minutes before the break when Town countered quickly from a Palace corner with David Cawley and Lambe heavily involved before playing the ball wide for Murray.

The young Irishman cut inside and unleashed a wonderful angled strike that Wickham deflected in with his head giving the keeper no chance as it flew inside the far post.

Initially given as a Murray goal, Wickham claimed it at half-time with his team-mate's agreement.

Town had some early problems dealing with Hakeem Adelukan's long throws and keeper Lewis Ward was happy to see a 30-yard free kick curl wide.

Skipper Luke Hyam epitomised his, and the team's, determination when he threw himself in front of Andelukan to prevent a goal.

Right back Hyam was snappy in the tackle and linked well with Lambe on the right flank to put in some decent crosses.

The whole back four coped well, while Lewis ward was confident in coming out to take the ball.

With Clark showing a good range of passing aided by the timely runs of Matt Daniels and hard working Cawley, the Blues midfield often over-stretched Palace and helped create the better chances, while Palace had their moments, mainly from set plays.

The Eagles thought they had equalised five minutes after the break through Michael Abnett but the flag was raised.

Kieran Dijilali, who went on as a Palace sub at Selhurst Park on Saturday produced a stunning run but a weak finish, although it served as a warning for Town.

Abnett got his goal when he controlled a raking diagonal pass and powered in a shot off the keeper and underside of the bar in the 74th minute.

Djilali put a good chance over the bar and seconds later his keeper touched away after a powerful Wickham drive came back off the inside of a post.

Palace dominated most of the first period of extra time but even though Town looked dead on their feet they defended stoutly and the moment that mattered was when Wickham nodded in Jamie Griffiths well-flighted free kick, in the 104th minute.

Substitute Taren Roberts showed plenty of energy to cleverly put away the second equaliser in midway through the second period but Town went straight up the other end to score.

Thorp made a good save from Murray but Wickham was there to follow up and complete his hat-trick.

Lambe wrapped it up with a lovely curling shot from just inside the box and Tony Humes' young Blues will now entertain Watford in the fifth round on Monday, January 26. `

Ipswich Town: Ward, Hyam (Clemo, 118) Dunbar, Daniels (Eastman, 82) Watson, Ainsley, Clark (Griffiths, 70) Cawley, Wickham, Murray, Lambe. Subs not used: Meekings, Brandon.

Crystal Palace: Thorp, Clyne, Parsons (Roberts, 46) Goldsmith (Holness, 110) Holland, Nnmani, Abnett, Comley, Pinney, Djilali, Adelakun. Subs not used: Kenlock, Tebbit, Randall.

Referee: P Harris. Attendance: 413