Phew, what as scorcher !! The
weather that is, as the football wasn't up to a great deal in the
sweltering temperatures. In fact, it was the first football match I have
been to that had three drinks intervals !!
The match started with Tottenham fielding
an inexperienced side, many of whom will form the reserve team this
season. Some f the players were from the Academy teams and some
will only just be eligible to play for the Under-17s, they were so
We decided to sit in the shade, in the
stand opposite the main stand, which seemed like a good idea, what with
the sun being behind us. But, two hours later, the metal sheeting
at the back of the stand became as hot as a radiator in winter and what
appeared to be a good idea at the time ... !!
The players were obviously feeling the
heat and I don't know how the first team will function tomorrow if the
temperatures hit the same heights. But Billericay, under the
guidance of Justin "Ricky" Edinburgh, must have been doing
their training in a steam room, as they came out of the blocks like a
steam train !!
Kieran McKenna had the first chance though
and his shot went wide when placed on the edge of the penalty
area. It was a more accurate effort that came next and gave
Billericay the lead, when in the ninth minute, James Dormer curled in a
high ball from the right side, 25 yards out. His cross, as that is
what it really was, looped over Burch's back-pedalling and hit the top
left hand corner of the goal. It looked like a fluke and the home
fans seemed to accept that too. That was weird, as they and their
players seemed to have a strange interpretation of the laws of the game
whenever I heard them being discussed with ref and linemen.
The goal gave Town confidence and they
were playing to their strengths - longer balls played through the Spurs
defence, which caused them a lot of problems. Especially, when
they played them over the heads of the Tottenham players, leaving
runners unmarked behind them. Spurs got caught out a number of
times by this tactic and although the diagonal ball is difficult to
defend, the Spurs players should have worked it out.
Henry had to intercept a run through the
middle by Hobden and in the next minute, the same player bamboozled
O'Donoghue to set up Ansell with a one-on-one with Burch. The tall
keeper stood up as long as possible and saved the shot, with Foster
picking up the pieces. Spurs tried the use of the long ball too
and Henry's direct route found Slabber get away for about the only time
in the first half, but his shot rose way over the bar. On twenty
minutes, Galbraith took matters into his own hands and hit a hopeful 18
yarder that the Blues keeper got behind easily.
Burch denied Patterson on 26 minutes,
when he burst in from the left wing to hit a shot that looked destined
for the far corner, but the Spurs goalie pushed it away. However,
two minutes after this save, he was unable to do much about the second
home goal. A long ball into the box from the right wing cleared
Watson's head and Patterson neatly slid the ball inside for Hobden to
drive a low shot past Burch from 10 yards out.
Spurs escaped going further behind a
couple of minutes later, when a replica move saw Leon Hunter meet the
cross with his head and in trying to head it back over Burch, also
headed it over the bar. It was all Billericay until half time.
After the break, Spurs made three changes
and with Mark Hughes still dominating midfield, they found new
impetus. Midfielder Jamie O'Hara, signed from Arsenal last season,
was more dynamic and his cross gave Galbraith a headed chance that went
gently wide of the mark. With six minutes of the half gone,
Slabber made room for a shot that got blocked, bounced back off him and
forced the keeper to dive and hold the ball. Marcel McKie did well
to battle for the ball and win it near the by-line, pulling it back into
the box for Slabber in the next attack, but Jamie's attempted lob was
too soft and Jerome John beat his effort out.
Galbraith, who had played in more
excitable atmospheres in South Africa, as had Burch, had the best Spurs
chance up until that time, when his dipping 25 yard free-kick forced the
keeper to go low to stop the ball in front of the goal-line. Then
Spurs put together a good passing movement with Hughes playing the ball
out right to Barnett, who picked out O'Hara at the far post, but his
header went very close to the left upright. And it was a header at
each end that produced the next action with both going wide, when
players were well placed.
However, the next changes made a
difference. Michael Malcolm came on for Jamie Slabber and 16 year
old Welsh schoolboy Scott Thyer replaced David Galbraith. Now, I
was going to say that from a distance it looked like they had changed
the winger for a Mini-Me version, but Thyer is a bigger version of
Galbraith. His determination to make something happen contrasted
with Slabber's performance, which was decidedly under par.
Michael Malcolm has a habit of being in
the right place at the right time and on 66 minutes, he found himself in
the area, when, from out on the left wing, O'Hara dinked a ball in for
him to head home from inside the six-yard box. However, the ball
bounced and held up on the dry pitch and made it difficult for the
striker to get any power behind his header and the keeper made it back
to smother his effort. With 67 minutes on the clock, a poor
back-pass by a BIllericay player was seized on by Thyer and although he
was driven very wide on the left by the keeper, he steadied himself and
drove home from a narrow angle to reduce the deficit.
Hughes, who was impressive with his
desire for the ball and to make runs off it all day, pinged one over the
top from 18 yards out, while Thyer took out the keeper with a boot in
the chest as he chased a long ball through the unguarded middle of the
Blues defence. With about a quarter of an hour remaining, it
looked like Tottenham had carved out a chance to level the scores.
Ronnie Henry fed the ball into the feet of Lee Barnett, who moved it on
quickly to Malcolm and his low drive was pushed upwards by the keeper,
who then did well to recover and grab the ball on the line as it dropped
from a great height. A couple of minutes later, John was forced
into the save of the match from Barnet, who cut in from the right to
unleash a fierce rising drive that the goalie did very well to palm out.
With time running out, a late free-kick
provided Spurs with one last chance and Hodges headed the ball over as
players flew in.
Billericay deserved their win, as they
played some neat football and many will be surprised that a team managed
by Edinburgh could do so, but he has a solid squad here and might do
well in the Ryman's League this season.
For Tottenham, Hicks looked OK on the
ball when he came on and Malcolm and Thyer looked a dangerous
combination ... not that they will get too many chances to play
together, with Malcolm aiming to make the reserves his team this year,
while Thyer will be in the Under-17s. The lack of a decent ball
into the box let Spurs down in the first half and although it improved
in the second, the service to the front men was a bit thin. Joe
Watson looked troubled at right wing back and things tightened up a bit
in the second half, when hicks played there.
There are some promising players in this
bunch of nineteen, but they need to be worked into a unit. It's
not easy when there are calls on players and the squad might be
different every week, but they need to be aware of the demands of their
role in the side, which ever Spurs team they play in.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - MARK HUGHES