Hayes and Yeading United keeper George Upton produced a brilliant display of goalkeeping as a vastly more experienced Dulwich Hamlet were held to a draw before going out on penalties to a Hayes and Yeading United side packed with under 18s.
The visitors more than held their own during the opening exchanges and although both sides were intent on attacking, the final ball was either wayward or snuffed out by well drilled defending at both ends. It was 20 minutes before the first effort on goal and it came from a near post corner from Dulwich's Ashley Carew, which the diminutive Dean Lodge met for a free header at the near post, but he blazed over from inside the six yard box. From open play, another headed opportunity presented itself as Jamie Mascoll sent over a deep cross which Shawn McCoulsky met firmly right in front of goal but again he couldn't control the elevation.
The experienced home side began to assert themselves but were to be denied in the 28th minute by some remarkable goalkeeping by George Upton. Carew's improvised right wing free kick surprised everyone by arrowing in towards goal, only for Upton's firm hand to claw the ball away. It seemed in vain as the ball dropped perfectly for Mascoll on the far post and he sent a header towards goal, only for Upton to recover from inside the goal and dive forward to punch the ball off the goal line. This unorthodox piece of ingenuity was rewarded as the assistant confirmed that he had successfully protected his goal.
Although United were unable to generate anything particularly threatening towards the Dulwich goal, they continued to defend resolutely, restricting their hosts to a speculative Mu Maan long shot which nevertheless went fairly close to the right hand post and a scrambled effort from Lodge after Upton dispossessed Usman Adeniji on a breakaway and then held him up long enough for his defensive charges to recover and afford Lodge no space to get a shot on target.
They did however, go close twice just before half time as Upton dived to beat away Maan's curling shot and from the resulting corner, once again from point blank range, McCoulsky skied his effort, this time sliding in on a low centre.
The second half continued in a similar fashion to the first, with Hamlet enjoying a lot of possession but being held at bay by a finely organised United defence. It took a superb cross field ball by Jordan Hibbert to open them up, but Conor Tierney deflected Adeniji's shot into the side netting.
United's patience was rewarded on 53 minutes as Dylan Kearney beat keeper Oshane Brown to a high ball and was pulled down before he could get a shot away. He was however, able to convert the resulting penalty kick, into the bottom right corner.
This stunned Dulwich into life and it was down to two more great diving saves by Upton that they didn't find an immediate equaliser. First, Mascoll went on another of his many forceful runs from left back but found his angled drive blocked by Upton low to his left. He then produced an even better save to parry Carew's low piledriver.
The game went up to a frenetic pace this point as both Ashleigh Artwell and Rhys Murrell-Williamson went on marauding runs which led to blocked shots, while at the other end, Lodge was the next to be denied by a diving Upton save and Conor Tierney bravely blocked another rasping goalbound Carew shot, only to injure himself in the process.
Hamlet did manage to equalise in the 71st minute with a penalty of their own after Josiah Benjamin got too tight to Adeniji and pushed him over. Carew found the bottom corner with a firm shot to finally beat Upton.
Unperturbed, United responded soon afterwards, a trademark cut inside from Murrell-Williamson culminated in a 30 yard dipping shot which deflected just over the crossbar.
Substitute Craig Davies was only on the pitch for a matter of minutes before he was in the thick of the action. First he was the next home player to be denied by Upton who raced off his line to block his shot, and then he got into an altercation with Benjamin which referee David Buck took a long time to sort out by choosing just to issue warnings to both players.
Upton then cemented his man of the match award with a flying fingertip save to divert Maan's curling drive over the bar, although the referee denied him the credit and bemused everyone by overruling his assistant and giving a goal kick. Play switched to the other end quickly as Artwell teed up Kearney on the edge of the area only for Michael Kamara to deflect his goalbound effort wide with a lunging challenge.
As full time loomed, Davies hit a free kick which deflected just wide off the United wall. However, after a highly entertaining 90 minutes, the score line couldn't separate the teams and a penalty shoot out was required.
Dulwich missed their first, looping the ball into Upton's waiting hands but they scored their others, as did Luke Bersey, Artwell, Kearney and Murrell-Williamson for United. The onus fell on Curtis Cyrus to score the decisive penalty, which he did very assuredly to send United through as a reward for a very good performance.
Report by Nick Bell.
United Man of the Match: George Upton.