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Tottenham Under-19's v Southampton Under-19's  -  10.11.2001

The visit of a big club to Spurs Lodge is always eagerly awaited and this was no exception.  Except they didn't turn up.  Instead, we had to settle for the Saints Under-19s, who also were somewhere else by their showing in this game.

To be truthful, neither team sparkled on this crisp November noon, with the sun giving some warmth to the small crowd, but then they were cheered in the second half by the action.

The first period had little to commend it, as both teams got bogged down in midfield, with few clear chances and the definite lack of a quality final ball.  Three minutes before half-time, Jamie Slabber (who had been moved up form the Under-17s) went close, before Mark Hughes drove a shot straight into the keeper's midriff.  Apart from a few instances where the referee, who had a good game, had to speak to players, there was little else to get excited about.

The second half was much more open, with both sides having goalscoring opportunities.

Seven minutes into the second period, Mark Hughes (not that one) had a diving header well saved by Trueman, while another headed chance from James Lee went wide on 59 minutes.  Almost immediately afterwards David Galbriath showed good skill in lobbing the ball over two on-rushing defenders and as he latched onto the dropping ball in the box, hit a weak shot straight at the keeper.  There was a chance at the other end as McManus, who blazed over.

Lee made way for John Sutton, who had featured in the reserve squad for the last couple of matches and he added a greater aerial threat upfront.  However, the next chance fell to the Saints left back, Fullam, who again shot way over with the goal at his mercy.

Tottenham's best move saw the ball moved around until it got to Lee Barnard, who passed the ball in to Sutton, who as he got in behind the defence was bundled over, but the ref did not look likely to give a penalty.  The game switched to the other end, where Burch caught the ball into his chest from a firm drive by Mills.

Breaking down the left wing, Galbraith got in a low ball across the face of the six yard box and Jamie Slabber came in and got a touch to it, but the keeper stuck out an arm and stopped it on the line.  In the 80th minute another good move saw some neat inter-passing and the ball was played through to Mark Hughes running into the box.  However, instead of stepping over the ball, Sutton chose to take a touch and then play Hughes in, but he was closed down and the chance was gone. The Irishman was not best pleased.  However, it was only two minutes later that the goal that Tottenham had been threatening arrived.

The ball was played across the box from out on the right and the Saints defence brought the ball out.  However, trialist Channot was caught in possession by Galbraith, who nicked the ball away from him and ran on to the edge of the box, before firing the ball past the goalie for the only goal of the game.

The visitors responded straight away with Mills shooting over and then in injury time, the same midfielder tried a speculative long shot, but the ball went wide of the target.  The final whistle was greeted with relief all round.

Playing a much changed team since the Bristol City fixture, Spurs played a bit better than on that day and although the opposition was not as strong, they still looked too good for the Saints.  Burch did everything he had to well and took some good high balls under strong pressure form their physical centre forward.  Kelly and Herron went about their work without any fuss and got forward to launch balls forward to the strikers whenever they could.  Henry was most impressive; talking to his team-mates constantly and providing a solid presence at the back. O'Donoghue alongside him won most of the aerial challenges and wasn't going to be muscled out of the game by the Saints forwards.

In midfield, I was struck by the Northern Irish youngster Mark Hughes.  This was the first view of him I have had and he was the image of Ben Bowditch; running opponents down and tackling fiercely, while finding time to link up with the front men.  A very good game was played by the captain of the team.  Lee was the outlet on the left and he was industrious, while Galbraith showed a nice touch on the ball and an awareness of when to play the ball and when to hold it.  Walter Thomas was another I was seeing for the first time.  A slight figure, he looked a bit like Boa Morte, but was not afraid to get stuck into the midfield tackles as they flew around him.  He showed good passing ability and if he fills out, he might be a more effective and creative source for the forwards.

Jamie Slabber had scored a lot of goals in the U-17s this season and was stepping up to see how he got in at an older age level.  He looked a big lad for an U-17 and showed that he could use his physique to the best advantage.  He was unlucky not to be getting great service, but fed off the scraps and linked up play when he got the ball.  Needs to find his feet at this level.  Lee Barnard found it to be a frustrating day. Constantly being kicked, he got little protection from the officials and on his recent showings in the reserves, has looked more accustomed in that side.  He didn't give up though and ran his socks off chasing defenders down.  John Sutton came on near the end and didn't really have much opportunity to show much, but he did enough to demonstrate that he has learned from the others at a higher level, how to play with his body.  He needs to be aware of what is best for others and not just himself though (not easy for a goalscorer, I know), as the incident with Hughes showed.

A better outcome than last time I saw this side, but a better game altogether, with some good play, some good individual performances and some well-earned points.

Spurs : - Rob Burch; Stephen Kelly, Paul O'Donoghue, Ronnie Henry, Chris Herron; James Lee (John Sutton 74), Mark Hughes, Walter Thomas, David Galbraith; Lee Barnard, Jamie Slabber.
Unused Subs : - Jawal, Vedeux

So'ton : - Trueman; Channot, Fullam, Rosier, Byles; McManus, Broxton, Mills, Crowell; Lucas (Saunders 81), Pereplyotkin.
Unused Subs : - Poate, Davies

For action photos of the match click here.

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