THE Airbus Under-16s celebrated a thrilling penalty shoot out victory over Merthyr Town to become the national academy champions at Newtown's Latham Park.
Sunday's game saw, arguably, the two best U16 sides in the country go head to head as North Wales table toppers Airbus UK Broughton met the top South Wales side, Merthyr Town.
The Martyrs started the game the brighter side and forced Airbus stopped Tom Lewney into a few smart saves early on as the scores remained level. It was the Wingmakers who opened the scoring as a delightful through ball from Lewys Turner found striker Lewis George, who delightfully lifted the ball over on rushing keeper. A sublime finish from the Airbus centre forward.
As the half wore on, Merthyr slowly clawed their way back into the game and eventually equalised through the excellent Tom Randall, who volleyed home from the edge of the area.
The second period saw Airbus start slowly and Merthyr seized initiative. Tom Lewney kept the scores level with another very good save to deny Martyr's striker Bradley Cotterill and left back Harry Keeley also did his bit as he somehow managed to clear off the line when it looked a certainty that the South Wales side would take the lead.
Merthyr did eventually take the lead for the first time as striker Bradley Cotterill showed excellent pace and skill to weave his way through the Wingmakers backline before he cooly finished past Lewney.
This seemed to spur the Wingmakers into life as they started to peg Merthyr back and create chances of their own. Lewis George went close to adding his second, as he headed narrowly over from a Tom Cain free kick and skipper Connor Hughes saw his volley also fly narrowly over. In addition to their superiority from set plays, the fresh legs and trickery of Sam McCormick and Kai Hardcastle were causing the Martyr's no end of trouble.
With time running out and just as it was looking like the trophy would be heading to South Wales, the Wingmakers pounced. Substitute Dan Frederiksen curled an absolute screamer into the top left hand corner to level the scores and shatter the spirit of the South Wales side. The goal seemed to give the Wingmakers fresh impetus and not long after Max Carter saw his goal bound header cleared off the line. Kai Hardcastle also went close but the game was to go to extra time!
The extra time periods were a cagey and quiet affair. Neither side seemed to want to make, what could prove to be a crucial mistake. Wingmakers stopper Tom Lewney did have to make a sharp save from a Bradley Cotterill header and Kai Hardcastle headed over from 10 yards out but chances were few and far between.
So to penalties the game went. The first time since 2012 that an Academy Cup Final has been settled on penalties.
As ever, they were a tense affair, but keeper Tom Lewney proved to be the hero as he saved the crucial kick in sudden death to give the Wingmakers a stunning 9-8 victory on penalties!
A fantastic achievement for the Academy as we become the most successful Academy in Wales, with five Academy Cup triumphs in six attempts!
Also, a huge congratulations to both the players and coach Jamie Crowther who have worked tirelessly this s