Kotwica fires hat-trick to set up tie with Tottenham
CHELTENHAM Town are preparing for one of the biggest matches in their youth team's history after setting up a home tie against Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of the FA Youth Cup.
The Premier League giants' academy side will visit the Abbey Business Stadium on Tuesday, December 18.
A hat-trick from winger Zack Kotwica helped the Robins' Under-18s to a 5-2 victory over AFC Wimbledon, but they needed extra-time to see off their ten-man hosts.
Head of youth Russell Milton praised his players for progressing, but he admitted they did not make life easy for themselves at Kingsmeadow.
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"We made hard work of it, but we got there in the end," said Milton, once on the books of Arsenal.
"We were the better side in the first half but didn't make the most out our opportunities.
"They had a man sent off in the second half and we did okay, but we could have kept the ball better.
"The quality wasn't quite there in the final third and sloppy defending saw us 2-1 down.
"I sent on Owen Donaghue and Ed Williams as a last throw of the dice and both lads were superb and changed the game for us."
Wimbledon led 2-1 with 88 minutes on the clock, but Kotwica's first goal took the tie to extra time, during which he completed his treble along with a goal from Donaghue as Wimbledon wilted.
In terrible conditions, both teams struggled with the strong wind and rain.
Yousef Bamba put Wimbledon ahead in the 20th minute after a fine run from near the halfway line, but centre-half Spencer Hamilton levelled, forcing the ball over the line after a corner on the right from Adam Powell three minutes later.
Dons skipper Dan Pearse was sent off for a challenge on Joe Hanks in the 55th minute, but Bamba restored Wimbledon's advantage in the 81st minute.
Substitute Donaghue set up Kotwica who saved Cheltenham and the young Robins then ran away with it, making their extra man count during the extended period.
Wide man Donaghue was again the creator for Kotwica's second in the first minute of extra time and Donaghue made it 4-2 six minutes later with a well-placed low drive.
Kotwica rounded off the scoring with an excellent strike, cutting inside from the left and blasting an unstoppable shot past Dons' substitute goalkeeper Billy Bishop.
Milton said: "Hopefully there will be a bit of interest in the Tottenham tie and it can bring the boys to the fore and give them a bit of an airing.
"It's great for the lads to be able to pit themselves against a top academy side, so we are looking forward to that now, but there is a lot of things to work on before then."
AFC Wimbledon: J Greenaway (B Bishop 34); G Hayden (H Basker 95), O Daley, O Roberts, M Cunnington; Y Bamba, D Pearse, C Jacquart, C Fayers, S Baffour (K Tarbie 60); C Oakley. Subs not used: C Craig, C Vleitinck.
Cheltenham Town: D Reaney; K Thomas (L Hitchman 106), M Gonzalo, S Hamilton, C Marshall; Z Kotwica, J Hanks, H Williams, A Powell (E Williams 86), J Bowen (O Donaghue 84); B Dale Subs not used: H Rivers, L Morana.
REFEREE: C O'Donnell
STAR MAN: Zack Kotwica